Nearly a year ago, scientists at Hadassah Hebrew Hospital in Jerusalem were carrying out tests on a 46-year-old man with temporal lobe epilepsy, when he began chanting prayers. He then got up and marched around the hospital, telling people, "God has sent me to you."
Readings from an electroencephalogram revealed a spike in activity in his left prefrontal cortex, which has been linked to religious experiences, just prior to the incident.
Indeed, epileptic patients have been known to report detailed religious experiences, and numerous studies on the topic suggest that spiritual processes can change with different neurological conditions.
This notion inspired researchers at Missouri University to dive deeper into the connection between epilepsy and heightened religious experience.
When a patient with epilepsy experiences increased electrical activity in the brain, or seizures, this could be associated with an increase in a range of behaviors, such as hyper-sexuality, hypergraphia (an intense desire to write), hyper-morality and hyper-religiosity, explained Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology at Missouri University and lead researcher on the study. These symptoms present the question: Are the hyper-religious experiences of epileptic patients related to specific religious experiences, or do they reflect increased emotionality observed with epilepsy?