Lauren, The mind-body medicine movement and the research done in this field have taken us into a new direction in recent years. “Spirituality and Medicine” is a course at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School that teaches students how to talk with patients about their spirituality and disease. More than half of the medical schools in the country, from Harvard to Stanford, now offer such courses. Illustrious institutions such as Harvard, Duke, Columbia, and the National Institutes of Health have researchers attempting to assess the relationship of spirituality and health.
There is a body of research exploring the neurological underpinnings of spiritual experiences and health. Brain circuits are affected when we have spirited experiences. Many researchers believe that spirituality affects your health, happiness, and well-being. Many medical research centers now study the mind-body connection and call their research, “The Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health.”
Science is getting very interested in what happens in the brain when we have spiritual experiences. We now have the technology – such as FMRIs, EEGs, PET scans, and blood, saliva and urine tests – that actually show us what is happening in real time in our bodies when we perform certain activities. Dr. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania uses brain imaging to identify where the brain’s spirituality circuits are located and how the brain reacts to spiritual and religious practices. Dr. Newberg says, “There is no way to determine whether the neurological changes associated with spiritual experience mean that the brain is causing those experiences or is instead perceiving a spiritual reality.”