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Neural correlates of religious experience.

The commonsense view of religious experience is that it is a preconceptual, immediate affective event. Work in philosophy and psychology, however, suggest that religious experience is an attributional cognitive phenomenon. Here the neural correlates of a religious experience are investigated using functional neuroimaging. During religious recitation, self-identified religious subjects activated a frontal-parietal circuit, composed of the dorsolateral prefrontal, dorsomedial frontal and medial parietal cortex. Prior studies indicate that these areas play a profound role in sustaining reflexive evaluation of thought. Thus, religious experience may be a cognitive process which, nonetheless, feels immediate.

Pubmed ID: 11328359


  • Azari NP
  • Nickel J
  • Wunderlich G
  • Niedeggen M
  • Hefter H
  • Tellmann L
  • Herzog H
  • Stoerig P
  • Birnbacher D
  • Seitz RJ


The European journal of neuroscience

Publication Data

April 30, 2001

Associated Grants


Mesh Terms

  • Adult
  • Brain
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parietal Lobe
  • Religion
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed