This is your brain on God: Spiritual experiences activate brain reward circuits -- ScienceDaily"When our study participants were instructed to think about a savior, about being with their families for eternity, about their heavenly rewards, their brains and bodies physically responded," says lead author Michael Ferguson, who carried out the study as a bioengineering graduate student at the University of Utah. Based on fMRI scans, the researchers found that powerful spiritual feelings were reproducibly associated with activation in the nucleus accumbens, a critical brain region for processing reward. Peak activity occurred about 1-3 seconds before participants pushed the button and was replicated in each of the four tasks. As participants were experiencing peak feelings, their hearts beat faster and their breathing deepened. In addition to the brain's reward circuits, the researchers found that spiritual feelings were associated with the medial prefrontal cortex, which is a complex brain region that is activated by tasks involving valuation, judgment and moral reasoning. Spiritual feelings also activated brain regions associated with focused attention.