The Science of Awakening
Recent advances in brain research using brain imaging techniques such as SPECT, fMRI and EEG have indicated that the human brain is already hard wired for enlightenment. It seems that the brain, over millions of years of evolution, has been prepared for the experience of unity with Cosmos or oneness with God.
Andrew Newberg, professor of nuclear medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, is the author of the acclaimed book ‘Why God Won’t Go Away’. In an attempt to bridge science and spirit Newberg studied eight Tibetan Buddhist practitioners during meditation using SPECT scan. The images he captured showed that the brain’s prefrontal cortex during deep meditation lit up in a red color indicating an increase in blood flow and neural activity in that area.
At the same time, surprisingly, the upper rear part of the brain called the parietal area turned a dark blue shade indicating a sudden drop of brain activity in that area which Newberg calls the Orientation Association Area (OAA).
Newberg theorizes that when the meditator withdraws from the outside world, sensory input to the OAA is blocked and the neural activity in that area is shut down. At the same time due to the intense concentration (on a mantra, on God or guru) the prefrontal cortex or the Attention Association Area (AAA) is strongly activated and will now assume the role as the brain’s new experiential center.
The OAA is the area which gives us the ability to orient ourselves in space and time and which gives our bodies a sense of physical limits and the self a sense of separateness from the rest of the universe. When the OAA is deactivated the physical limits of the body and the sense of separateness disappears. The brain can no longer create a boundary between self and the outside world, or locate itself in physical reality.
As a result, Newberg says, the brain has no choice but to perceive that self as endless, interwoven with everyone and everything. This is the state Newberg calls Absolute Unitary Being. We prefer to call it the Oneness State.
Newberg’s research suggests that the process of awakening is not only due to psychological change or a change in philosophy and values. No, it is primarily due to a fundamental change in brain function with a shift in brain dominance from the parietal (OAA) to the prefrontal (AAA) area.
When the over-activity in the OAA is decreased and the under-activity in the AAA is increased, there is a shift of the brain’s command center and the individual wakes up to a higher level of consciousness and to a new reality which seems to be even more real than the old one.
Richard Davidson. Some of Newberg’s findings have been corroborated by neuroscientist Richard Davidson, University of Wisconsin. Davidson collaborated with Tibet’s Dalai Lama who sent eight of his most accomplished meditators to Davidson’s laboratory for a scientific study.
Using both EEG and fMRI scans, Davidson studied the monks during deep meditation and found very high activity in the prefrontal cortex – especially on the left side which has to do with feelings of joy, happiness and compassion. The EEG recordings during deep meditation showed extremely powerful Gamma waves in that same area of the brain.
Since there were no detailed descriptions of the monks’ levels of spiritual development in the above studies we have no idea whether any of them were in a permanent awakened state.
The Science of Awakening Reviewed by The Riddler on 8:00:00 AM Rating: