I found this interesting (you might not). While I’m deeply suspect of a laboratory measurement of “capacity for transcendence”, I think it is interesting if there is a biological correlation between religiosity/spirituality and serotonin. It makes sense that your brain chemistry would matter in your spiritual life, and it opens the door to a lot of fascinating questions. Are some people “wired” to be more religious? Can it be passed on genetically? Is it something that evolved in us uniquely, compared to other animals with complex brains?
The connection to psychotropics is also really interesting to me. There is definitely a subculture of people who take psychotropics and who also report all kinds of “spiritual” experiences while on them. I’ve done a little bit of research into this – with books and articles! don’t get ideas – and found it fascinating overall. If you’re interested in the…one might say neurological structure of religious experience, then its worth a look.
Of Serotonin and Spirituality
Scientists see a biological underpinning for religiosity, and it is related to the neurotransmitter serotonin.
By: PT Staff
Serotonin, the brain chemical crucial to mood and motivation, also shapes personality to make you susceptible to spiritual experiences. A team of Swedish researchers has found that the presence of a receptor that regulates general serotonin activity in the brain correlates with people’s capacity for transcendence, the ability to apprehend phenomena that cannot be explained objectively. Scientists have long suspected that serotonin influences spirituality because drugs known to alter serotonin such as LSD also induce mystical experiences. But now they have proof from brain scans linking the capacity for spirituality with a major biological element.
The concentration of serotonin receptors normally varies markedly among individuals. Those whose brain scans showed the most receptor activity proved on personality tests to have the strongest proclivity to spiritual acceptance.
Reporting in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers see the evidence as contradicting the common belief that religious behavior is determined strictly by environmental and cultural factors. They see a biological underpinning for religiosity, and it is related to the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Psychology Today Magazine, Nov/Dec 2003
Last Reviewed 8 Jul 2008