Description: The neural substrates of religious belief and experience are an intriguing though contentious topic. In the past decades, discussion has focused on the potential philosophical and theological implications of a so-called ‘God-spot’. At the same time the relatively few studies that have been conducted on the neurocognitive mechanisms involved in religion suffer from several methodological problems, such as inconsistency in the definition of religion and low sample sizes. Here we have the unique opportunity to establish the relation between validated measures of religiosity and gray matter volume in a large sample of participants (N = 224). In this registered report we propose to conduct a confirmatory Voxel-Based Morphometry (VBM) analysis to test three central hypotheses, according to which (1) an increased endorsement of religious beliefs is associated with a reduced volume of the orbito-prefrontal cortex, (2) an increased prevalence of mystical experiences is associated with reduced volume of the hippocampus and the right middle temporal gyrus, (3) increased religiosity and prevalence of mystical experiences is associated with volume changes of the bilateral inferior parietal lobe. The analysis plan, the processing pipeline and all analysis scripts will be made available online on the OSF. The ultimate aim of this study is to more clearly establish the relation between structural characteristics of the brain and religiosity and mystical experiences.
Related article: http://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.14563
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