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Research Article

The Neural Correlates of Religious and Nonreligious Belief

  • Sam Harris equal contributor,

    equal contributor Contributed equally to this work with: Sam Harris, Jonas T. Kaplan

    Affiliations: UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America, The Brain Research Institute, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America, The Reason Project, Santa Monica, California, United States of America

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  • Jonas T. Kaplan equal contributor,

    equal contributor Contributed equally to this work with: Sam Harris, Jonas T. Kaplan

    Affiliation: Brain and Creativity Institute and Department of Psychology, University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, California, United States of America

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  • Ashley Curiel,

    Affiliation: Department of Clinical Psychology, Pepperdine University, Los Angeles, California, United States of America

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  • Susan Y. Bookheimer,

    Affiliations: Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America, Departments of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America, The Brain Research Institute, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America, Department of Psychology, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America

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  • Marco Iacoboni,

    Affiliations: UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America, Departments of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America, The Brain Research Institute, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America

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  • Mark S. Cohen mail

    mscohen@ucla.edu

    Affiliations: Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America, Departments of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America, The Brain Research Institute, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America, Departments of Neurology, Radiological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, and Biomedical Physics, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America, Department of Psychology, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, United States of America

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  • Published: October 01, 2009
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007272

Reader Comments (11)

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Is this valid for both groups?

Posted by PetarK on 16 Jul 2011 at 01:28 GMT

While the contrast of belief minus disbelief yielded similar activation patterns for both stimulus categories, a comparison of all religious trials to all nonreligious trials produced a wide range of signal differences throughout the brain. The contrast of religious stimuli minus nonreligious stimuli (see Fig. 2A, Table 3.) revealed greater signal in many regions, including the anterior insula and the ventral striatum. The anterior insula has been regularly linked to pain perception [34] and even to the perception of pain in others [35]. This region is also widely believed to mediate negatively valenced feelings like disgust [36], [37]. The ventral striatum is also regularly associated with emotional processing, especially with reward [38] and appears to play a role in cognitive planning [39]. We also found greater signal for religious stimuli in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The ACC is often taken to be a reporter of response conflict [40], and activity in this region has been negatively correlated with religious conviction [41].
http://plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0007272#article1.body1.sec2.sec3.p1

It doesn't seem clear whether those regions are active for both the Christian and the non-religious group during religious and non-religious stimuli respectively. Later, it is clear that the brain activity of the two groups correlates for "blasphemy", but the regions are not the same. I apologize if this becomes clear later in the article, but I cannot find the clarification.

Thanks.

No competing interests declared.