Physiological Study of Prayer Using Electroencephalography (EEG)
Spiritual activities like prayer and meditation are known to influence individuals physically and psychologically. Although there are many studies conducted on meditation and yoga, only several attempts have been made to study the physiology of prayer. Prayer, regularly practiced across many religions, is used extensively by people as a way of communicating with a divine being. Particularly in Christianity, prayer has been used as a mechanism of relaxation and healing. Therefore, this study investigated Christian prayer to gain understanding of the psychosocial and physiological impacts of prayer on a person. A questionnaire was prepared that assessed the general practice and experience of prayer from a total of 70 subjects that included participants from 12 Christian denominations, Hindu, and non-religious individuals. The brain activity of 21 female subjects was recorded using electroencephalography (EEG) with electrode placements in the occipital lobe and parietal lobe. The EEG recording sessions consisted of three minutes of silence, the Lord’s Prayer, and three minutes of personal prayer. The recorded data for brain activity was analyzed based on frequency and amplitude. The mean frequency and amplitude of the distinct sections of the silence, the Lord’s Prayer, and personal prayer were compared to identify any significance difference and pattern. The questionnaire in this study showed experience and practice of prayer to vary among individuals. Furthermore, the EEG recordings indicated some difference in the control and prayer, although further study is necessary to better quantify the difference.
* Indicates faculty mentor.