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Limbic system = god?

  1. Jul 24, 2004 #1
    I've been reading a lot in neuroscience and "mind" books. I've read a lot about an idea that the limbic system is the cause of higher-being beliefs. Studies done on epileptic patients with seizures located in the temporal lobes show that during a seizure, the patients recall feeling euphoric, in touch with nature, and divine/spritual.

    Here's an excerpt from a book I have by Dr. Richard Restak, titled The Brain Has A Mind Of Its Own:

    He says "Many of our social, political, and moral beliefs rest on a kind of
    visceral certitudea: 'I know it in my heart,' we say when we are absolutely
    convinced." (as you religous people say when asked 'how do you know God
    exists?') "We 'cross our heart' or raise our right hand as if taking an oath.
    That certainty originates in the temporal lobes of the human brain. We know
    this because epileptics with seizures originating in the temporal lobes often
    speak of a feeling of 'utter convictiom' or 'great insight'. In most people
    this feeling of certainty attaches to generally accepted ideas and thoughts.
    But with a delusion an idea that the person would never have found acceptable
    under ordinary circumstances can instantly crystallize into certainty. At
    that moment the anxiety, uneasiness, and vague disquietude disappear, to be
    replaced by an almost blissful state. Naturally, this kind of feeling isn't
    relinquished easily, hence the intransigence of the delusional belief. Those
    who attempt to destroy the delusion and thereby threaten to bring about a
    restoration of the dreaded doubts, fears, and anxieties risk becoming the
    objects of a murderous frenzy." ... and the kicker--> "We have a deeply felt
    need to construct explanations about the world and our mental experiences.
    When it comes to the meaning of events surrounding us, we abhor uncertainty,
    ambiguity, being 'left hanging'."

    What do yall think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2004 #2
    What do I think ? About God + your post ?
    Answer: Music.

    I'll show you a song. I'll call it "Monkey song"
    1.) Listen to your music and sing this phrase instead of the words to the song. "OOMPA. OOMPA. OOMPA."
    2.) At a point of inspiration in your music. Change your word to, "BOOMPA".

    You only need to sing BOOMPA once. Not like OOMPA.

    I'll say a few words on this now.

    The above is the euphoria you discussed in your post. It's not Epilepsy. It's just a meathod of speech/communication.

    The Eplieptics are quiet then burst into the euphoria described. Yeah. They're singing. "OOMPA, OOMPA, etc...BOOMPA."

    You bet, it feels good to sing this song in honor of a great legend like GOD.
    It feels good to sing this song for Canada too. So many nice songs.

    So God is the song we sing with pride and joy. Not epliepsy since we don't all have that problem.

    Listen to your music and try my song out. You'll see. :surprise: :eek:
  4. Jul 25, 2004 #3
    !!!! Now THAT is a peculiar way to prove a point, but i agree with you.

    Haha, you're a good one, reader.
  5. Jul 25, 2004 #4
    The brain is a wonderful piece of hardware, but in order to understand the software one must study a broader spectrum of observations. Note that at present our understanding of the physiology of the brain is still at a primitive stage, but studies of the software are not so primitive.

    The idea that people fantasize, hallucinate, and have spiritual experiences because their brains cannot accept uncertainty is pretty far fetched imho. It reminds me of a lot of judeo-christian ideas about rugged individualism and fighting the good fight of man vs nature. The fact of the matter is, the more intelligent the animal the more it will seek out altered states of consciousness.

    Does this then mean the more intelligent the animal the more it abhors uncertainty? Or simply that the more intelligent the animal the more creative? Unless there is evidence to the contrary, I shall stick with the simple observation that the more intelligent the animal the more creative.
  6. Jul 27, 2004 #5

    All it did was create a beat. It only makes a difference if you "think" it does. I didn't say we all had epilepsy. I just stated the evidence provided. The point was to show that the limbic system is the place within the brain that gives us euphoric feelings, and could possibly be the source for people's feelings of "god". If you've ever been to a "southern baptist" church, you will know what Im talking about. The way in which the preacher enunciates his/her words is very distinct. They talk softly then every now and then proNOUNciate certain syllables with harshness and often times very high level of sound. this is the same as the drum beats, or the chants of a buddhist monk. The beat provides stimuli to the limbic system, creating a higher sense of blissfulness, or heavenly feelings. But only if you're conjured into it.

    I don't think creativity is dependent upon intelligence. Mind you, elephants paint rather interesting pictures. A virus such as AIDS is far below our intelligence lever, however its method of attack is rather creative, hiding within a cell, broadcasting "all is well with this cell".

    The "seeking out altered states of consciousness" is just dependent upon brain structure. A dolphin, for example, has a larger limbic system than that of a human being. If you've ever seen a dolphin up close, other than at seaworld, you'll see its curiosity.(i saw one once when my little cousin was in physical/mental therapy after a car accident). when she got into the water with the therapist, the dolphin came right on over, and seemed to stare into my cousin's eyes, and seemed to wonder why she was not feeling well. I think curiosity is just defined from brain structure. The ability to wonder is not a matter of intelligence.
  7. Jul 28, 2004 #6


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    Some folks think that the "thorn in my flesh" that the Apostle Paul spoke of was epilepsy. Some further believe that the blinding vision that Paul (aka Saul) had on the road to Damascus was due to an epileptic seizure.
  8. Aug 18, 2004 #7
    This thing about the limbic system, seizures, and religious feeling is quite complex and would take quite alot of time to cover properly.

    I'll try to make a few important points:

    Most people who have simple or complex partial seizures do not have euphoric feelings. That is actually a fairly uncommon experience. The most frequently reported simple partial seizure symptom is that spasm of the hippocampus we all know as the deja vu. The second most common is unwarranted fear and a sence of dread.

    All our emotions are generated in the limbic system. A seizure is the uncontrolled hypersynchronous firing of neurons. What that means is that the emotions a simple partial seizure in the limbic system causes are amplified to ten or more times the strength of any emotion you'd feel under normal circumstances. Even though the emotion has no external cause it is so strong that the person experiencing it is not really at liberty to step back from it and question its authenticity. During a fear seizure, for example, the person may have no idea what is frightening them, but they are completely convinced that there is a good solid reason to be frightened. They are convinced that they're "sensing" some danger they can't see. The emotion is really too strong for them to question it. It just seems too real. The same would hold true for a euphoric seizure if they happened to have that symptom.

    In general the brain takes a few days to recover from an event as serious as a complex partial seizure. During that time, no matter what specific symptoms the persons characteristically suffers during a seizure, their emotions, all their emotions, are much more touchy than usual. They are subject to extreme mood swings and can, in some cases, have the intensity of emotion of someone who is quite drunk, without the physically symptoms of drunkenness. Everything they feel is felt much more deeply and sharply untill the brain chemistry settles back down.

    When your emotions are like this the result is that all kinds of things you normally wouldn't notice suddenly seem to have intense meaning. Everything seems extremely important, all kinds of little things seem to be the tip of an immense iceberg of meaning that lies submerged behind the everyday world. A blade of grass seems to hold the secrets of the cosmos. Drops of water become metaphors for life and our relationship to the universe. Every little thing is stunning and important because of the unnaturally extreme emotional reactions the person experiences as a consequence of the seizure activity.

    The certainty and confidence such people may have comes from the intensity of their emotions. The person reasons "My emotions are so strong, what I'm thinking or experiencing must be true!" Epileptics who have temporo-limbic involvement tend to become preoccupuied with thinking about religious, philosophical, and ethical matters. Such concerns have a natural appeal when you're in a state where the "meaning" of things is always uppermost in your mind.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2004
  9. Aug 18, 2004 #8
    Ad Infinitum NAU, the issue is far more complex, and there are great many more reasons for "God".

    Fear is one, loneliness, feelings of being powerless, reality of death are also reasons. Many people need god, they need heaven and hell, then need a higher power that seeks justice and punishes the wicked, that fights oppression, and to give hope where there is none.
  10. Aug 18, 2004 #9

    I understand all of that and have had many upon many conversations dealing with them all.. but this post was not about those other reasons, it was just to bring up the issue of the neurological reasons.
  11. Aug 18, 2004 #10
    I agree, but that was not what I was talking about. I was not comparing how creative they are, just how often they display creativity. Again, the more intelligent the animal the more frequently they tend to seek out altered states of consciousness, and the more often they will seek out creativity which is all but synonymous with alterring their consciousness.

    Of course elephants can be very creative... they are very intelligent.

    Zoobyshoe, where does your information come from?

    I happen to be epileptic, grand mall seizures, and agree to a great extent with what you have written. I wonder if any research has also shown similar results with PTSD, in a sense, varifying the age old addage that there are no atheists in fox holes.
  12. Aug 18, 2004 #11
    The two papers by Waxman and Geschwind, The book Seized by Eve LaPlante, a television show featuring the ideas of, and interviews with, neurologist V. Ramachandran, and extensive conversations with people with all forms of E, (mostly on the net but some in person.)
    Do you have generalized or secondarily generalized grand mals? In the latter case a temporo-limbic focus can manifest all the same post-ictal emotional dynamics. Alot of people with grand mals don't have these post-ictal emotional dynamics at all, though. I don't think these latter ever get much limbic involvement. Complex partials almost always have limbic involvement. Do you experience an aura?
    I'm not aware of any, but I haven't done any research on PTSD, just picked up bits and pieces about it. Off the top of my head, though, it seems there would be a qualitative difference between religious feelings based on seeing an excess of meaning in all details, and religious feeling based on fear of your life, as in a fox hole.

  13. Aug 19, 2004 #12
    I don't know what the distinction is between generalized and secondarily generalized grand mals. I loose complete control and consciousness, and it is my occipital and temporal lobes that show irregularities in EEGs. I am one of those who experience overwhelming fear during the initial stages. Interestingly enough, I have also tested as having extreme spatial dynamics and picture my entire surrounding in 3D while my eyes are rolled back in my head during the onset of a seizure.

    This, dispite the anomolies in my occipital region. In addition, the only time I ever had seizures was during puberty, always ten to twenty minutes after having fallen asleep. This was very confusing for me, and sometimes I would awaken with nightmares of having a seizure, then feel the same overwhelming fear. So much so, that like a real seizure I would loose the power of speach and spazm.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2004
  14. Aug 19, 2004 #13
    A generalized seizure hits full strength all at once. A secondarily generalized seizure starts as a focal seizure somewhere and the seizure activity then spreads to the rest of the brain from that focus. There is a certain percentage of people, for instance, who have a clear complex partial stage that preceeds generalization into a grand mal. Other people have simple partials that generalize into complex partials. Other people have simple partials that generalize into grand mals. The simple partial before generalization constitutes the aura. The aura dosn't actually "preceed" the seizure, it is the beginning of the seizure: the aura itself is focal seizure activity. Some people with grand mals get hit all at once with no aura. Those would be generalized grand mals.
    There is probably a specific focus in the temporal or occipital lobe that spreads quickly to the other. That activity is then sustained for a while before generalizing.
    The fear seizure is almost certainly seizure activity in a very troublesome little part of the limbic system called the amygdala. (Amygdala means "almond", and was so named because it bears a certain resemblence to that nut.) The amygdala controls fear and agression: the fight or flight response. The reason fear is such a common seizure symptom is because the amygdala is one of two organs that seem to have the very touchiest neurons in the whole brain. I suppose this is what kept us alive back in the cave days; our extreme alertness to danger.
    This would be the temporal and occiputal lobes seizing together.
    Or possibly because of them. There is a certain chance that's where your main focus is, but it's impossible to say from such complex symptoms.
    People are more likely to seize during sleep than at any other time. This is one of the reasons they like to have people come in for a 48 hr VEEG, to see if they can catch a nocturnal seizure on record.

    Losing the power of speech is almost always a left frontal lobe thing. I'm going to venture a guess that the temporal and occiputal activity they found was mostly left-side, no? These incidents after waking up were almost certainly "real" seizures in their own right, just not grand mals. Since you were aware of what was going on and still remember them they were simple partial seizure activity: limited to a select area and with no impairment of consciousness. The same happens to most people with grand mals: they also have a variety of less severe seizures. I've heard the same reports of spasming while conscious after having awaken at night from three other people with E, though I've never read about it in the literature.

    Anyway, I'm extremely glad to hear that you haven't had a reccurence in so long. That is considered a very good sign.
  15. Aug 19, 2004 #14
    No, it was my right temporal lobe and I don't know about which occipital region. Once in a blue moon I can swear I feel something like an ice pick stab deep into my right temporal lobe. Also, I could be wrong but it feels like my loss of speach is purely the result of loosing muscle control and being too frightened and preoccupied to focus on the issue.

    If you think you are glad, I am thrilled beyond belief. I felt certain if they did not stop I would die quite young. Still, I suffer PTSD and insomnia to this day, and believe my seizures contributed to both. No doubt, they will still contribute to any early demise anyway. Just not an extremely premature one.
  16. Aug 19, 2004 #15
    Mostly these things (simple partials) all keep to the same side. Every tenth person or so I've talked to, though, has something so complicated going on that it defies the rules of thumb.
    Almost sounds like a migraine sort of thing: a spasming blood vessel kind of pain.
    I see what you mean: not a language processing problem, but a motor and emotional overwhelm problem. I've had about three instances of sleep paralysis which is probably vaguely similar (no spasms, though, just paralysis and hallucinations)
    Absolutely. I've talked to others with the same kind of seizure PTSD. It really only happens in people who've not had any in a long time, takes a while to develop. But bear in mind that the hormonal changes of puberty which are what probably pushed it from a latent to an active condition in the first place are all over and past, and all the neurons are well on their way to forgetting the habit of overreacting.

    Last edited: Aug 19, 2004
  17. Aug 20, 2004 #16
    Yes, and fortunately we now know that any damage can also hopefully be repaired by stem cells and a little behavioral conditioning.

    Another recent finding is that the petuitary gland releases triptophane along with adrenaline. This perhaps explains why I crave milk and turkey. :smile:
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