The Spiritual Brain

The Spiritual Brain

Mario Beauregard, Ph.D. and Denyse O'Leary

ISBN 978-0-06-085883-4

Published by Harper One 2007

Informative and thought provoking, this 368-page book could change the way you look at life. Skip the 16-page introduction, or read it later. The action begins with chapter one, a very readable account of what people of all levels of education believe about the soul and why they do. This is a delightful romp through principles and consequences of materialism, evolutionary psychology, darwinism vs. intelligent design, artificial intelligence, and quantum mechanics-all of which have had an influence on publications in neuroscience. Though I taught neuroanatomy for 20 years, I never realized that the principles of quantum mechanics, not Newton's laws, govern the release of chemicals at synapses.

This is an account of research by a neuroscientist who wondered if he could determine scientifically whether the soul exists. It is an easy read, I believe, because of input from the co-author, a science journalist. In addition, there are seven anatomical drawings, an 80-item glossary, and 743 notes containing explanations and references. For those with a passion to learn more there is a 10-page bibliography.

Chapter's two to eight are, in a scientific sense, a review of the literature. These discuss in detail concepts such as the God gene, the God module or God spot in the brain, and Dr. Persinger's God helmet that he claimed allowed wearers to have a mystical experience through temporal lobe stimulation. Consciousness, the self, and the difference if any between the brain and the mind will fascinate readers. Next, the authors discuss near death and mystical experiences, as well as what triggers them and what effect they have on their recipients. The last two chapters, nine and ten, describe the research of Dr. Beauregard and his graduate student on Carmelite nuns during mystical experiences. They used functional MRI and quantitative EEGs to analyze brain activity, finding that many areas far beyond the temporal lobe were involved. There is no "God spot." Those of us aware of brain pathways in chronic pain can relate to this concept since the search for a pain centre also has shown there is no single place were pain is perceived.

Dr. Beauregard's conclusions about the soul will surprise you. I will not deprive you of the excitement and enjoyment of reading this book by revealing them all here.

When asked to prepare a book review I intended just to skim the pages. But I found I had to read every line and could not put it down. This book is available in HARD COVER wherever good books are sold, $32.95 in Canada.

Don Ranney, MD, FRCS, Professor Emeritus, Anatomy, University of Waterloo

This review was published in The Medical Post April 1, 2008

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