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Correlation between Pineal Activation and Religious Meditation Observed by Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging


The human brain possesses plenty of functions but little is known about its scientific relationship with mind and spirit. Conferences^1,2^ focused on the connection between science and religion were held very recently in which neuroscientists, Buddhist scholars and Dalai Lama discussed attention, mental imagery, emotion, mind, brain functions and meditation, suggesting religious meditation offers an effective means to investigate the mystery of mind and spirit. In the past decade, scientists struggled to obtain brain mappings for various meditation styles using different brain imaging techniques and stimulating results have been observed^3-17^. In this letter we report that, together with other brain regions, pineal body exhibit significant activation during meditation process, supporting the long lasting speculation that pineal plays an important role in the intrinsic awareness which might concern spirit or soul. Pineal is known as an endocrine organ which produces substrates including melatonin and has been ascribed numerous even mysterious functions but its activation during meditation has never been observed by brain imaging technique. In seventeenth century, based on anatomic observation, Descartes ventured to suggest that pineal serves as the principal seat of the soul^18-20^. Inspired by its geometric center in the brain, physiologists, psychologists, philosophers and religionists have been speculating for centuries about pineal's function relevant to spirit and soul. In this study, we chose Chinese Original Quiet Sitting, one style of meditation, to explore this long lasting speculation by functional magnetic resonance imaging technique. Our results demonstrate a correlation between pineal activation and religious meditation which might have profound implications in physiological understanding of the intrinsic awareness.

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Correspondence to Si-Chen Lee or Jyh-Horng Chen.

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Liou, CH., Hsieh, CW., Hsieh, CH. et al. Correlation between Pineal Activation and Religious Meditation Observed by Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Nat Prec (2007).

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  • pineal gland
  • fMRI
  • meditation


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