Your Brain Agrees With You
In a recent article by Slate.com's Daniel Engber, the author addresses research into the way the brain works in cases of glossolalia, or speaking in tongues. The research was particularly focused on the case of devout Christians, who believe that God takes control of their minds and speaks through them. MRI images of the brains of believers were compared in two cases: first when they were singing gospel songs, and again when they were claiming to be in a state of glossolalia. The results of the MRI when the subjects were in a self-described state of glossolalia showed that there was a decrease in activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is active when a person is doing something on purpose. While this shows that brain activity matches with the subjective feelings of the subjects and their perceived lack of control, it would be more interesting if there was no correlation. If a person perceives their experience to be one way, should we really be surprised that the brain agrees with this, as it is, of course, the base of perception and thinking?
Looking more closely at this idea of the brain images agreeing with the subjective emotional experiences of a person really which inhabits a body for the sum total of a living person would open the door for negative test results. A person could have an overwhelming emotional experience, but scans of their brain should in turn reflect nothing out of the ordinary. These sorts of strong emotions would be limited to the in-tacit realm of the soul. Hence is gone idea of the ghost in the machine. As for the debate between a blank slate and some inherent understanding, there isn't much elucidated by this examination, but the materialist concept that everything we experience stems from the firing patterns of neurons in our brain brings us to work with those two theories. There is certainly an undeniable connection between emotions and experiences, and the physical chemistry of the brain. And while the study on glossolalia and speaking in tongues contributes to the mounting and massive pile of evidence supporting that, it ultimately fails to demonstrate anything about faith and spirituality. All we know is that the physical functions of believers' brains agrees with what they feel, but why and where it originates is still left up in the air.
"Brain imaging on speaking in tongues."
An introduction to glossolalia (Wikipedia)
Another take on glossolalia