Brain scans reveal that people who “speak in tongues” have relinquished self control.
To conduct the study, psychiatrist Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and his colleagues recruited five African-American women who belong to a local Pentecostal congregation. All had been in the habit of speaking in tongues “almost on a daily basis” for the past 5 years, says Newberg. As a control activity, subjects stood and sang gospel songs with musical accompaniment, moving their arms and swaying. Then they were asked to repeat the behavior, but this time the researchers encouraged them to speak in tongues rather than sing. … scientists gave the subjects an intravenous injection of a radioactive tracer that provided, in effect, a freeze-frame of which brain areas were most active during the behavior, as indicated by increased blood flow. This was captured by then scanning the women’s brains in a single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) machine.
Glossolalia produced … a decrease in frontal lobe function, Newberg says. “The part of the brain that normally makes them feel in control has been essentially shut down.” Another notable change was increased activity in the parietal region–the part of the brain that “takes sensory information and tries to create a sense of self and how you relate to the rest of the world,” Newberg says. The findings make sense, says Newberg, because speaking in tongues involves relinquishing control while gaining a “very intense experience of how the self relates to God.” Interestingly, he notes, the glossolalia responses were the opposite of those seen in subjects in a meditative state. When people meditate on a particular sacred object, Newberg has found that their frontal lobe activity increases, while their parietal activity goes down. This conforms with the notion that in meditation one has a controlled focus while losing a sense of self. – scinow
I wonder if my brain does the same things when I improvise nonsense jazz sounds.