While looking into how the brain regulates behavior, I VilayanurRamashandran, M.D., thinks he may have found God. The neurologist believes that somewhere in the brain's temporal lobes there may be neural circuitry for religious experience; he points to the fact that about 25 percent of patients with temporal lobe epilepsy are obsessed with religion. "I have temporal lobe patients walking into my laboratory wearing a huge cross and carrying a 500-page tome on the nature of God," says Ramashandran, of the University of California in San Diego.
He thinks that these patients' seizures caused damage to the pathway that connects two areas of the brain: the one that recognizes sensory information and the one that gives such information emotional context. "Everything becomes very significant," he says. "These patients are seeing depth in every little thing."
To support his theory that there is a specialized circuitry in the brain for religious experience, Ramashandran and his colleagues hooked up temporal-lobe patients and healthy controls to a machine that records the body's physical reactions to stimuli. Three groups of words were presented to the patients: neutral words; profane or sexually loaded words; and religious words.