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      Highly religious participants recruit areas of social cognition in personal prayer

      1 , 1 , 1 , 1 , 1 , 1 , 1
      Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
      Oxford University Press (OUP)

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          Abstract

          We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how performing formalized and improvised forms of praying changed the evoked BOLD response in a group of Danish Christians. Distinct from formalized praying and secular controls, improvised praying activated a strong response in the temporopolar region, the medial prefrontal cortex, the temporo-parietal junction and precuneus. This finding supports our hypothesis that religious subjects, who consider their God to be 'real' and capable of reciprocating requests, recruit areas of social cognition when they pray. We argue that praying to God is an intersubjective experience comparable to 'normal' interpersonal interaction.

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          Most cited references37

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          The precuneus: a review of its functional anatomy and behavioural correlates.

          Functional neuroimaging studies have started unravelling unexpected functional attributes for the posteromedial portion of the parietal lobe, the precuneus. This cortical area has traditionally received little attention, mainly because of its hidden location and the virtual absence of focal lesion studies. However, recent functional imaging findings in healthy subjects suggest a central role for the precuneus in a wide spectrum of highly integrated tasks, including visuo-spatial imagery, episodic memory retrieval and self-processing operations, namely first-person perspective taking and an experience of agency. Furthermore, precuneus and surrounding posteromedial areas are amongst the brain structures displaying the highest resting metabolic rates (hot spots) and are characterized by transient decreases in the tonic activity during engagement in non-self-referential goal-directed actions (default mode of brain function). Therefore, it has recently been proposed that precuneus is involved in the interwoven network of the neural correlates of self-consciousness, engaged in self-related mental representations during rest. This hypothesis is consistent with the selective hypometabolism in the posteromedial cortex reported in a wide range of altered conscious states, such as sleep, drug-induced anaesthesia and vegetative states. This review summarizes the current knowledge about the macroscopic and microscopic anatomy of precuneus, together with its wide-spread connectivity with both cortical and subcortical structures, as shown by connectional and neurophysiological findings in non-human primates, and links these notions with the multifaceted spectrum of its behavioural correlates. By means of a critical analysis of precuneus activation patterns in response to different mental tasks, this paper provides a useful conceptual framework for matching the functional imaging findings with the specific role(s) played by this structure in the higher-order cognitive functions in which it has been implicated. Specifically, activation patterns appear to converge with anatomical and connectivity data in providing preliminary evidence for a functional subdivision within the precuneus into an anterior region, involved in self-centred mental imagery strategies, and a posterior region, subserving successful episodic memory retrieval.
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            The mirror-neuron system.

            A category of stimuli of great importance for primates, humans in particular, is that formed by actions done by other individuals. If we want to survive, we must understand the actions of others. Furthermore, without action understanding, social organization is impossible. In the case of humans, there is another faculty that depends on the observation of others' actions: imitation learning. Unlike most species, we are able to learn by imitation, and this faculty is at the basis of human culture. In this review we present data on a neurophysiological mechanism--the mirror-neuron mechanism--that appears to play a fundamental role in both action understanding and imitation. We describe first the functional properties of mirror neurons in monkeys. We review next the characteristics of the mirror-neuron system in humans. We stress, in particular, those properties specific to the human mirror-neuron system that might explain the human capacity to learn by imitation. We conclude by discussing the relationship between the mirror-neuron system and language.
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              An automated method for neuroanatomic and cytoarchitectonic atlas-based interrogation of fMRI data sets.

              Analysis and interpretation of functional MRI (fMRI) data have traditionally been based on identifying areas of significance on a thresholded statistical map of the entire imaged brain volume. This form of analysis can be likened to a "fishing expedition." As we become more knowledgeable about the structure-function relationships of different brain regions, tools for a priori hypothesis testing are needed. These tools must be able to generate region of interest masks for a priori hypothesis testing consistently and with minimal effort. Current tools that generate region of interest masks required for a priori hypothesis testing can be time-consuming and are often laboratory specific. In this paper we demonstrate a method of hypothesis-driven data analysis using an automated atlas-based masking technique. We provide a powerful method of probing fMRI data using automatically generated masks based on lobar anatomy, cortical and subcortical anatomy, and Brodmann areas. Hemisphere, lobar, anatomic label, tissue type, and Brodmann area atlases were generated in MNI space based on the Talairach Daemon. Additionally, we interfaced these multivolume atlases to a widely used fMRI software package, SPM99, and demonstrate the use of the atlas tool with representative fMRI data. This tool represents a necessary evolution in fMRI data analysis for testing of more spatially complex hypotheses.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
                Oxford University Press (OUP)
                1749-5024
                1749-5016
                June 2009
                June 01 2009
                February 25 2009
                June 2009
                June 01 2009
                February 25 2009
                : 4
                : 2
                : 199-207
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of the Study of Religion, 2MR-Research Centre, 3Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience and 4Department of Social Anthropology, University of Aarhus, Denmark
                Article
                10.1093/scan/nsn050
                2686228
                19246473
                05c33cf7-0084-4241-8c25-43cfa020ca9c
                © 2009

                http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

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