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Epilepsy is historically connected with divine or psychotic factors, discouraging epileptics from seeking or receiving the proper medical treatment. Uncovering neurological correlates of religious experience is aimed at separating normal religiosity from hyper-religiosity as a symptom. Finding an answer to this problem would have larger implications on the separation of medicine and religion, giving patients the treatment they deserve. What neurological correlates with supernatural experience are suggested by studies involving temporal lobe epilepsy, and how does this research help to separate normal religiosity from hyper-religiosity as a symptom? It is important to draw a line between medicine and religion, and while this line cannot yet be definitely drawn, brain imaging has begun to locate supernatural experience within the brain. Studying temporal lobe epilepsy can help to distinguish between normal religiosity and hyper-religiosity. I examined the history of epilepsy, finding that the progress of science was hindered by epilepsy through the lens of the church and magical medicine. Other studies found parts of the brain associated with religious/supernatural experience; the temporal lobe, frontal lobe, parietal lobule, superior frontal gyrus, and limbic system have been found to play key roles in this phenomenon. These findings helped to define Geschwind syndrome, a personality disorder in a subgroup of temporal lobe epilepsy patients. Treatment for epilepsy has become more medically based, but because of stigmas surrounding hallucination and seizures some patients still don’t get the treatment they need. The implications of this research are leading to new ways to separate medicine and religion, which will be positive for the progress of science.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)

Neurotheology, Neuroscience, Psychology

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Faye Prichard


Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

Is Part Of

VCU Undergraduate Research Posters


© The Author(s)

Epilepsy: Distinguishing Symptoms from the Divine