Doctors have had a rare and eye-opening experience after catching the precise moments a patient underwent a vivid religious experience, all while he was hooked up to brain monitoring equipment.
The findings of the incident were recently published in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior.
Researchers at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel were treating a 46-year-old man with right temporal lobe epilepsy. As part of the treatment, the man had recently stopped taking anticonvulsant medication for his epileptic seizures and was having his brain activity measured through an electroencephalogram.
Doctors noticed that the man started to blankly stare at the ceiling. After a few minutes, he suddenly stood up and started shouting “God has sent me to you.” He then proceeded to take off the electroencephalogram electrodes from his head and started going around the ward telling other patients he was going to “bring redemption to the people of Israel.” He later said that he felt that he was in conversation with God.
Although the man identified as being Jewish, he claimed that he was not religious, The Times of Israel reports. So, what could could be going on within the brain of someone experiencing a lucid spiritual experience for the first time?
Just before he removed the electroencephalogram equipment, doctors noticed that it showed his brain’s left prefrontal cortex experienced a steep influx in activity. This part of the brain, located just behind the front of the forehead, is often attributed to controlling personality expression and moderating social behaviour, as well our emotions and memories.
The precise recording allowed the doctors to attribute the occurrence of unusual activity within the prefrontal lobe as post-ictal psychosis (PIP). PIP is a form of psychosis that can occur after epileptic seizures and can often trigger sensory hallucinations alongside delusional thoughts. Although this unique experience hasn’t allowed scientists to pin-point how or why some people might experience lucid religious experiences, it has given them a clear insight into the mechanisms of the brain and its activity when a mind undergoes a psychotic episode, especially those associated with epilepsy.