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Neurosci Lett. 2008 Oct 17;444(1):1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2008.08.028. Epub 2008 Aug 14.

EEG activity in Carmelite nuns during a mystical experience.

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Centre de Recherche en Neuropsychologie et Cognition (CERNEC), Département de Psychologie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Que., Canada.


Mystical experiences relate to a fundamental dimension of human existence. These experiences, which are characterized by a sense of union with God, are commonly reported across all cultures. To date, no electroencephalography (EEG) study has been conducted to identify the neuroelectrical correlates of such experiences. The main objective of this study was to measure EEG spectral power and coherence in 14 Carmelite nuns during a mystical experience. EEG activity was recorded from 19 scalp locations during a resting state, a control condition and a mystical condition. In the mystical condition compared to control condition, electrode sites showed greater theta power at F3, C3, P3, Fz, Cz and Pz, and greater gamma1 power was detected at T4 and P4. Higher delta/beta ratio, theta/alpha ratio and theta/beta ratio were found for several electrode sites. In addition, FP1-C3 pair of electrodes displayed greater coherence for theta band while F4-P4, F4-T6, F8-T6 and C4-P4 pairs of electrodes showed greater coherence for alpha band. These results indicate that mystical experiences are mediated by marked changes in EEG power and coherence. These changes implicate several cortical areas of the brain in both hemispheres.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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