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Medical Glossolalia - Speaking in tongues

  1. Nov 3, 2006 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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  3. Nov 3, 2006 #2


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    That makes sense, they're going under a self induced trance.
  4. Nov 4, 2006 #3


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    I guess it does help convince the skeptics that it's not just acting, which is certainly something I've wondered...without these sorts of studies, how would we know?

    That the emotional centers "light up" isn't surprising, since one would expect they'd be in a state of heightened emotions. That the language control centers aren't being activated is quite interesting.
  5. Nov 15, 2006 #4
    Language control is in Broca's Area and Wernicke's area, and, as far as I can tell, they are being activated here. There is confusion because while claiming language control centers are being deactivated, the locations it specifically cites are not these two. What the article says is decreased, (and merely decreased, not deactivated) is frontal lobe activity. The right frontal lobe is probably the important location here because it is where impulse control is located. People with right frontal lobe damage frequently exhibit inappropriate behavior because they can't censor their impulses. They frequently blurt out whatever's on their mind. Left frontal lobe problems make people unnaturally peaceful and accepting of dangerous and inappropriate things. They become "blissed out".

    A good illustration of the former is the case of Phinneus Gage, who turned from a nice, well liked guy, into an obnoxious outcaste after a metal rod was blown through his right frontal lobe in a mining accident.

    A good case study of the latter is The Last Hippie by Oliver Sacks in An Anthropologist On Mars. A guy develops frontal lobe syndrome from a brain tumor and basically becomes helpless because nothing bothers him.

    To the extent these people practising speaking in tongues are voluntarily letting go of what they say, and also of the need for it to make any sense, (blissed out) it doesn't surprise me that their frontal lobe activity is selectively decreased. Any old syllable that occurs to them is as good as any other.

    An increase in thalamus activity is indicative of nothing specific at all since the thalamus is a kind of Grand Central Station for sensory imput and several other things. I'm not sure what the basal ganglia increase might imply, that does alot of things too.
  6. Nov 15, 2006 #5
    Exactly the book I was thinking about! :cool:
  7. Nov 24, 2006 #6


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    When I made my initial comments, I had only read the press release that Ivan linked to, and not the original article. I had misunderstood a sentence they wrote in it (even after reading the original article and going back, it took me another read through to realize what they meant by the sentence I misunderstood).

    Broca's area is in the left frontal lobe, and it does look like there is decreased activity there during glossolalia (but I'm not an expert at reading these types of images...I generally know enough to get by with the brain areas that interest me, so I may be wrong). You're never going to see a complete deactivation, just a statistically significant decrease. That's the nature of this type of test.

    I think the confusion is that they are talking about loss of control and language in the same sentence, but they haven't directly tested that it is loss of control of language centers. The "loss of control" is that blood flow in the prefrontal cortex is decreased, and decreases in activity in the PFC are associated with loss of inhibition.

    Wernicke's area is more relevant to language processing, i.e., in understanding what someone else is saying (and is located close to an auditory center in the temporal lobe as well). So, in this case, it's Broca's area that's more relevant.

    That's pretty much what they were using it as a measure of...just generalized brain activity.

    In the original article, they are more specific about which of the basal ganglia differed in activity, and that was the caudate nucleus. This nucleus receives input from the frontal cortex, so the difference in activity seen there might just be related to the difference in activity in the frontal cortex. This region can also be involved in learning/memory, though I'm not sure how that's relevant here, unless it's as simple as being more active when singing because of the need to recall the words to the song. Lastly, there's a report in Science that the caudate is involved in distinguishing semantics in bilingual people, so maybe this difference in activity is associated with the glossolalia being like a second language to these people?
    Here's the reference for the Science article:
    J. Crinion, et al., Language Control in the Bilingual Brain, Science 312:1537 - 1540, 2006.
    And the link to the abstract (you need a subscription or access through your library for the full article) http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/conte...T=&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT
  8. Dec 14, 2006 #7


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    I suspect decreased brain activity is the norm when people speak without thinking. I've encountered this phenomenon in bars, but no witnesses who characterized them as divinely inspired, or enlightened.
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