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18 May 2016

Scientists measure brain activity of man with epilepsy as he “sees God”

Israeli scientists catch patient’s moment of “divine revelation” on brain monitoring equipment.

Researchers from Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem said that while treating a 46-year-old man for temporal lobe epilepsy, they observed and recorded him having a spontaneous religious experience in which he claimed to see God.

The patient was connected to an electroencephalogram (EEG)which was monitoring his brain activity, enabling the scientists to observe what was happening from a scientific perspective.

Published in Epilepsy and Behavior

Doctors Shahar Arzy and Roey Schurr described the incident in a case study published in the neurological journal Epilepsy and Behavior.

"And you are Adonai"

They said that while lying in bed, the patient abruptly “froze” and stared at the ceiling for several minutes, stating later that he felt that God was approaching him. He then started chanting prayers quietly, looked for his Kippa skull cap and put it on his head, chanting the prayers more vigorously. Then, suddenly, he yelled “And you are Adonai (name of the Hebrew God) the Lord!” claiming later that God had revealed himself to him, ordering him to bring redemption to the people of Israel.

"God has sent me to you"

The patient then stood up, pulled the EEG electrodes from his skin, and went around the department trying to convince people to follow him, saying “God has sent me to you”. After further questioning, the man said he does not have a concrete plan for what he and his followers should do on their way to salvation, but he feels sure that God will instruct him.

The man was described as Jewish although he said he had never been particularly religious.  He had stopped taking his anti-epileptic medication in order to undergo tests in hospital to treat the right temporal lobe epilepsy he had had for 40 years.

"Messianic revelation experience"

Doctors were able to observe and record in real time the so-called “delusional religious conversion”.  The study explains that the “messianic revelation experience occurred several hours after a complex partial seizure of temporal origin, compatible with postictal psychosis (PIP).”

They found that there was an increase in activity in the low-gamma band (30–40 Hz) brain waves in the left prefrontal cortex of the patient’s brain.  The doctors concluded: “This suggests that religious conversion in PIP is related to control mechanisms in the prefrontal lobe-related processes rather than medial temporal lobe-related processes.”

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