Researchers have identified ancient religions as a “deeply-rooted part of our modern culture”, according to a report published today in the journal Science.
They say the findings suggest there is an important role for religion in shaping the way we relate to the world.
The report was authored by a team led by University of Texas Professor of Philosophy and Neuroscience Dr. Matthew Rabinow and is based on a series of papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
In the first of its kind, the team used a new tool called the NeuroImage Network (NIN) to track the brain activity of volunteers as they read a series to describe an ancient religion.
NIN is a multi-dimensional network of blood vessels, nerve cells and other brain structures.
They used the network to analyze the volunteers brain activity as they wrote out religious texts about the Old Testament.
The team used the results to determine that ancient religions are rooted in human societies, and that this has important implications for understanding human behaviour and how we relate.
“Religions are deeply rooted in the human mind,” said Dr. Rabinowitz, a professor of philosophy and neuroscience at the University of Chicago.
“What they tell us about the human experience is the way in which we use our language and the way that we relate things to others.
This is what drives human society.”
The researchers then used a second tool called a Bayesian inference method, which allows them to use the data to predict the likelihood of future behaviour based on past behavior.
Based on the predictions, they developed a model of the brain to predict future religion, which they then tested on thousands of people who had never heard of a religious group.
The results show that ancient religious texts are linked to a variety of different patterns of brain activity, including neural activity associated with emotion, planning, empathy and motivation.
“Our results indicate that the brain of an ancient religious person shows a particular level of activation, called a functional neuroanatomy, which reflects the way they relate to and engage in complex social interactions,” said lead author Dr. Daniel G. Karp.
“We show that, for instance, a religious person will pay attention to a group’s position and posture, and this is particularly relevant in social contexts, when the group is perceived as being more dominant or dominant in the social hierarchy.”
In the study, the researchers examined brain activity associated solely with religious texts written by ancient writers, as well as those from a broader set of texts written during the same time period.
“When we looked at the religious texts we found that religious texts show a particularly high level of activity in areas of the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus,” Dr. Krap said.
“This activity may be relevant to the structure of the religious brain and its capacity for self-awareness and self-regulation.
The researchers also found that a large portion of religious texts were written in Hebrew, a language known for its ancient roots.
The authors suggest that this could be a result of Hebrew being an ancient language spoken by a large number of people, including a significant proportion of Hebrew speakers.”
The study was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). “
The results also reveal that the same religious texts can be found in ancient societies across the world and may have a deeper influence on human society than previously realized.”
The study was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
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