A Study in Neurobiology and Religion with Dr. Andrew Newberg

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In this podcast, I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Andrew Newberg, a man who has spent the last 20 years studying the relation between philosophy, neurobiology and religion. When applied to real life situations, his findings can help us to become more open and understanding with others.

About Dr. Andrew Newberg

Dr. Andrew Newberg is the director of research at the Jefferson Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine and a physician at Jefferson University Hospital. He is board certified in internal medicine and nuclear medicine.

Andrew has been asking questions about reality, truth, and God since he was very young, and he has long been fascinated by the human mind and its complex workings. While a medical student, he met Dr. Eugene d’Aquili, who was studying religious experiences. Combining their interests with Andrew’s background in neuroscience and brain imaging, they were able to break new theoretical and empirical ground on the relationship between the brain and religion.

Andrew’s research now largely focuses on how brain function is associated with various mental states—in particular, religious and mystical experiences. His research has included brain scans of people in prayer, meditation, rituals, and trance states, as well as surveys of people's spiritual experiences and attitudes. He has also evaluated the relationship between religious or spiritual phenomena and health, and the effect of meditation on memory. He believes that it is important to keep science rigorous and religion religious.

Andrew has also used neuroimaging research projects to study aging and dementia, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, depression, and other neurological and psychiatric disorders.

0:31 Introducing Dr. Andrew Newberg

2:10 Dr. Newberg's journey

  • An interest in science and helping people
  • A philosophical way of thinking
  • Religious background

7:34 College experience

  • Questioning beliefs
  • A search for answers
  • Infinite regression of doubt

14:56 Finding wonderful mentors

  • Neurobiology and religion

16:13 Bringing everything together

  • Combining neuroscience and philosophy
  • Where negative behaviors come from
  • Becoming more open and understanding

25:17 Using mindfulness when disagreements arise

  • Reactivity from a neurobiological standpoint

28:53 Internal measures of resilience

  • Mindfulness practices seem to improve resilience
  • The challenge of variables

31:21 Neurobiological results of meditation practices

  • Long-term meditators have thicker frontal lobes and higher activity
  • Reduction in stress and anxiety
  • Effects on the thalamus

39:57 Healing the subconscious mind

  • What we know

41:35 How to improve interpersonal relationships

  • The book Words can Change Your Brain
  • Using science and human nature to connect more effectively
  • Valuable daily practices

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