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

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Bulbulia,  Joseph
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Cohen-Zimerman, S., Cristofori, I., Zhong, W., Bulbulia, J., Krueger, F., Gordon, B., et al. (2020). Neural underpinning of a personal relationship with God and sense of control: a lesion-mapping study. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 20: s13415-020-00787-4, pp. 575-587. doi:10.3758/s13415-020-00787-4.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-5C64-3
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.