Carlos S. Alvarado, Ph.D., Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center (http://rhine.org/)

Dr. Alexander Moreira-Almeida revisits in an article the “Implications of Spiritual Experiences to the Understanding of Mind–Brain Relationship.” Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 2013, published online, February 21.

Alexander Moreira-Almeida

Alexander Moreira-Almeida

Here is the Abstract:

Objective

While there has been a large increase in scientific studies on spirituality, there have been too few studies on the core of spirituality: that is, on spiritual experiences (SE), which often involve altered states of consciousness, reports of anomalous experiences and of consciousness beyond the body. This paper argues that SE, although usually neglected in debates regarding the mind–brain relationship (MBR), may provide the much needed enlargement of the empirical basis for advancing the understanding of the MBR.

Methods

This paper briefly presents and discusses recent scientific investigations on some types of SE (meditative states, end of life and near death experiences, mediumship and alleged memories of previous lives) and their implications to MBR.

Results

Neurofunctional studies of SE have shown that they are related to but not necessarily caused by complex functional patterns in several brain areas. The study of meditative states, as voluntarily induced mind states that influence brain states, has been a privileged venue through which to investigate top-down (mind over brain) causation. End of life and near death experiences offer cases of unexpected adequate mental function under severe brain damage and/or dysfunction. Scientific investigations of several types of SE have provided evidence against materialistic reductionist views of mind.

Conclusions

The recent trend to investigate SE scientifically has already produced interesting and thought-provoking findings that deserve further careful exploration. Because of their potential implication, these findings may also contribute to the understanding of MBR, which remains an important, yet poorly investigated facet of human nature.

To obtain reprints write to the author: alex.ma@ufjf.edu.br

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