Neural underpinning of a personal relationship with God and sense of control: A lesion-mapping study

Shira Cohen-Zimerman, Irene Cristofori, Wanting Zhong, Joseph Bulbulia, Frank Krueger, Barry Gordon, Jordan Grafman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

A strong personal relationship with God is theoretically and empirically associated with an enhanced sense of control. While a growing body of research is focused on understanding the neural mechanisms underlying religious belief, little is known about the brain basis of the link between a personal relationship with God and sense of control. Here, we used a sample of patients with focal brain lesions (N = 84) and matched healthy controls (N = 22) to determine whether damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC)—a region associated with emotionally meaningful religious experiences and with sense of control—will modulate self-reports of a personal relationship with God and sense of control. We also examined potential mediators for these associations. Voxel-based lesion symptom mapping revealed that damage to the right vmPFC resulted in a stronger personal relationship with God, and patients with damage to this region demonstrated an increased sense of control relative to patients with damage to posterior cortex and healthy controls. Moreover, the association between vmPFC damage and greater perceived sense of control was mediated by a stronger personal relationship with God. Collectively, these results suggest that a strong personal relationship with God can serve an important psychological function by affecting sense of control, with both enhanced following damage to the right vmPFC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-587
Number of pages13
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Volume20
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Keywords

  • Personal relationship with God
  • Sense of control
  • Ventromedial prefrontal cortex
  • Voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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