temporal lobe epilepsy
Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, Neurotheology and Paranormal Experience
The first researcher to note and catalog the abnormal experiences associated with TLE was neurologist Norman Geschwind, who noted a constellation of symptoms, including hypergraphia, hyperreligiosity, fainting spells, and pedantism, often collectively ascribed to a condition known as Geschwind syndrome.
Vilayanur S. Ramachandran explored the neural basis of the hyperreligiosity seen in TLE using galvanic skin response (which correlates with emotional arousal) to determine whether the hyperreligiosity seen in TLE was due to an overall heightened emotional state or was specific to religious stimuli (Ramachandran and Blakeslee, 1998). By presenting subjects with neutral, sexually arousing and religious words while measuring GSR, Ramachandran was able to show that patients with TLE showed enhanced emotional responses to the religious words, diminished responses to the sexually charged words, and normal responses to the neutral words. These results suggest that the medial temporal lobe is specifically involved in generating some of the emotional reactions associated with religious words, images and symbols.
Cognitive neuroscience researcher Michael Persinger asserts that stimulating the temporal lobe electromagnetically can cause TLE and trigger hallucinations of apparent paranormal phenomena such as ghosts and UFOs. Persinger has even created a "God helmet" which purportedly can evoke altered states of consciousness through stimulation of the parietal and temporal lobes. Neurotheologians speculate that individuals with temporal lobe epilepsy, having a natural tendency to experience states of consciousness such as euphoria or samādhi, have functioned in human history as religious figures or shamans.