Does praying change the brain? Does prayer change the brain?
A study conducted in Michigan a few years ago by Brigid Waldron-Perrine, Ph.D. at Wayne State University and recently published in Rehabilitation Psychology found that patients with traumatic brain injuries who “felt a connection with a higher power” experienced better rehabilitation. Waldron-Perrine said, “among healthy adults, religion and spirituality have shown strong association with improved life satisfaction and physical and mental health outcomes.” And her research showed that this is also true for those with brain injuries.
Barbara Bradley Hagerty, in a five-part NPR series called “Is This Your Brain On God?“, relates that scientists are finding a noticeable difference in the brain of those that pray or meditate regularly. She cites, as an example, how Andrew Newberg, neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania and author of a book entitled, “How God Changes Your Brain” has been scanning the brains of religious people for more than ten years. Newberg worked with Michael Baime, a doctor and Tibetan Buddhist, who has meditated for at least an hour a day for forty years. Newberg scanned his brain while he meditated and found that Baime’s “frontal lobes lit up on the screen”. And some change appears to be permanent. Newberg found this result with monks as well as with Franciscan nuns praying and Sikhs chanting.
The Wayne State University study I mentioned earlier got me to thinking. If some see the brain as directing some form of self-healing of the body, when the brain itself is the injured party, what then? And yet, this study at WSU showed that feeling a connection with the divine (in thought) changed the brain, for the better.
So, can prayer change the brain?