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Percept Mot Skills. 1983 Dec;57(3 Pt 2):1255-62.

Religious and mystical experiences as artifacts of temporal lobe function: a general hypothesis.


Mystical and religious experiences are hypothesized to be evoked by transient, electrical microseizures within deep structures of the temporal lobe. Although experiential details are affected by context and reinforcement history, basic themes reflect the inclusion of different amygdaloid-hippocampal structures and adjacent cortices. Whereas the unusual electrical coherence allows access to infantile memories of parents, a source of good expectations, specific stimulation evokes out-of-body experiences, space-time distortions, intense meaningfulness, and dreamy scenes. The species-specific similarities in temporal lobe properties enhance the homogeneity of cross-cultural experiences. They exist along a continuum that ranges from "early morning highs" to recurrent bouts of conversion and dominating religiosity. Predisposing factors include any biochemical or genetic factors that produce temporal lobe lability. A variety of precipitating stimuli provoke these experiences, but personal (life) crises and death bed conditions are optimal. These temporal lobe microseizures can be learned as responses to existential trauma because stimulation is of powerful intrinsic reward regions and reduction of death anxiety occurs. The implications of these transients as potent modifiers of human behavior are considered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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