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Answers to life's most fundamental questions might be found at the intersection of science and spirituality, says neurotheologian Dr. Andrew Newberg. The research director at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia will give a talk titled "This is Your Brain on Spirituality: Neurotheology Explored" on Oct. 25 at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.
"Neurotheology is helping to explain the relationship between the physical part of ourselves, particularly the brain, and our various spiritual experiences," Newberg says of the scholarly field that studies how human physiology helps us to experience, interpret, generate and reconcile beliefs.
A prominent researcher in the field of nuclear medical brain imaging, Newberg has studied the brain waves of Buddhist meditators and Franciscan nuns in prayer to try to decipher the possible neurophysiological mechanisms associated with spiritual experiences. For the past 15 years, he has done brain-imaging studies on people including atheists and those who speak in tongues in an attempt to understand the relationship between the brain and beliefs.
"It's always a two-way street," he says. While the studies he leads have found that spiritual practices such as meditation can physically change the brain and the way people interpret reality, Newberg is quick to note that the data does not disprove the existence of a divine presence.
The author of more than 150 research articles and best-selling books such as Why We Believe What We Believe, Newberg has also appeared in the documentary films What the Bleep Do We Know!? and Bill Maher's Religulous.
At his Richmond lecture, sponsored by the Chrysalis Institute, a local spiritual resource center, Newberg plans to share his most recent brain-imaging findings and explain what they mean in terms of different spiritual practices.
"Ultimately, it might help people appreciate the different practices or belief systems they hold and [discover] how they can pursue them in more effective ways," he says.
The lecture will be from 7 to 9 p.m. and costs $40. 6000 Grove Ave. For more information, call 359-0384 or visit thechrysalisgroup.com .