Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Persinger (1983) theorized that religious experiences involve the production of brief, micro-seizures that originate in the limbic system and affect the temporal lobes of the brain. According to this theory, ritual behavior could be used by individuals to induce micro-seizure activity. The theory predicted that an increase in alpha and theta activity in the temporal lobes of the brain would occur when subjects had a religious experience.
To test this, male and female Christian college students completed a Prayer Experiences Questionnaire inquiring about their religious experiences during prayer. Individuals scoring in the upper and lower 30 percent of the possible summed scores on this questionnaire then participated in a recording session that measured theta and alpha activity originating from the temporal lobes of their brains. Difficulty was encountered obtaining high scoring males, and the final sample included 16 subjects each for 3 of the groups, but only 6 subjects for high scoring males.
Alpha and theta activity were recorded at two sites over each temporal lobe using the International 10-20 system, and took place during three 460 second intervals. The initial session consisted of baseline data. The remaining sessions consisted of the subjects reciting, silently to themselves, either a prayer or a secular text. The prayer and secular texts consisted of words matched for their occurrence in the English language. Following the recording session subjects completed an Experimental Experiences Questionnaire, which inquired about what they experienced during the prayer and secular conditions.
MANOVA analysis indicated differences in alpha, Rao R (8, 46) = 7.844, $p
Newberry, Donald E., "Temporal Lobe Transients and Prayer" (1998). Theses and Dissertations. 795.