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      Cognitive and neural foundations of religious belief

      , , , , ,  

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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          Abstract

          We propose an integrative cognitive neuroscience framework for understanding the cognitive and neural foundations of religious belief. Our analysis reveals 3 psychological dimensions of religious belief (God's perceived level of involvement, God's perceived emotion, and doctrinal/experiential religious knowledge), which functional MRI localizes within networks processing Theory of Mind regarding intent and emotion, abstract semantics, and imagery. Our results are unique in demonstrating that specific components of religious belief are mediated by well-known brain networks, and support contemporary psychological theories that ground religious belief within evolutionary adaptive cognitive functions.

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          Most cited references 39

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          The neural bases of emotion regulation: reappraisal and suppression of negative emotion.

          Emotion regulation strategies are thought to differ in when and how they influence the emotion-generative process. However, no study to date has directly probed the neural bases of two contrasting (e.g., cognitive versus behavioral) emotion regulation strategies. This study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine cognitive reappraisal (a cognitive strategy thought to have its impact early in the emotion-generative process) and expressive suppression (a behavioral strategy thought to have its impact later in the emotion-generative process). Seventeen women viewed 15 sec neutral and negative emotion-eliciting films under four conditions--watch-neutral, watch-negative, reappraise-negative, and suppress-negative--while providing emotion experience ratings and having their facial expressions videotaped. Reappraisal resulted in early (0-4.5 sec) prefrontal cortex (PFC) responses, decreased negative emotion experience, and decreased amygdala and insular responses. Suppression produced late (10.5-15 sec) PFC responses, decreased negative emotion behavior and experience, but increased amygdala and insular responses. These findings demonstrate the differential efficacy of reappraisal and suppression on emotional experience, facial behavior, and neural response and highlight intriguing differences in the temporal dynamics of these two emotion regulation strategies.
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            Remembering the past and imagining the future: a neural model of spatial memory and imagery.

            The authors model the neural mechanisms underlying spatial cognition, integrating neuronal systems and behavioral data, and address the relationships between long-term memory, short-term memory, and imagery, and between egocentric and allocentric and visual and ideothetic representations. Long-term spatial memory is modeled as attractor dynamics within medial-temporal allocentric representations, and short-term memory is modeled as egocentric parietal representations driven by perception, retrieval, and imagery and modulated by directed attention. Both encoding and retrieval/imagery require translation between egocentric and allocentric representations, which are mediated by posterior parietal and retrosplenial areas and the use of head direction representations in Papez's circuit. Thus, the hippocampus effectively indexes information by real or imagined location, whereas Papez's circuit translates to imagery or from perception according to the direction of view. Modulation of this translation by motor efference allows spatial updating of representations, whereas prefrontal simulated motor efference allows mental exploration. The alternating temporal-parietal flows of information are organized by the theta rhythm. Simulations demonstrate the retrieval and updating of familiar spatial scenes, hemispatial neglect in memory, and the effects on hippocampal place cell firing of lesioned head direction representations and of conflicting visual and ideothetic inputs. (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved.
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              Effect of subjective perspective taking during simulation of action: a PET investigation of agency.

               Jean Decety,  P Ruby (2001)
              Perspective taking is an essential component in the mechanisms that account for intersubjectivity and agency. Mental simulation of action can be used as a natural protocol to explore the cognitive and neural processing involved in agency. Here we took PET measurements while subjects simulated actions with either a first-person or a third-person perspective. Both conditions were associated with common activation in the SMA, the precentral gyrus, the precuneus and the MT/V5 complex. When compared to the first-person perspective, the third-person perspective recruited right inferior parietal, precuneus, posterior cingulate and frontopolar cortex. The opposite contrast revealed activation in left inferior parietal and somatosensory cortex. We suggest that the right inferior parietal, precuneus and somatosensory cortex are specifically involved in distinguishing self-produced actions from those generated by others.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                March 24 2009
                March 24 2009
                March 09 2009
                March 24 2009
                : 106
                : 12
                : 4876-4881
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.0811717106
                2660736
                19273839
                © 2009
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