Serotonin linked to religiosity

kellym78's picture

In a recent study, researchers have found that people with higher concentrations of serotonin receptors were more likely to be religious or the nebulous "spiritual." This is interesting because it would explain the connection between transcendent experiences and the use of psychotropic drugs and also the inverse correlation between religiosity and depression. Check it out for yourself:

Quote:

Of Serotonin and Spirituality
Scientists see a biological underpinning for religiosity, and it is related to the neurotransmitter serotonin.
 

By: PT Staff


Serotonin, the brain chemical crucial to mood and motivation, also shapes personality to make you susceptible to spiritual experiences. A team of Swedish researchers has found that the presence of a receptor that regulates general serotonin activity in the brain correlates with people's capacity for transcendence, the ability to apprehend phenomena that cannot be explained objectively. Scientists have long suspected that serotonin influences spirituality because drugs known to alter serotonin such as LSD also induce mystical experiences. But now they have proof from brain scans linking the capacity for spirituality with a major biological element.

The concentration of serotonin receptors normally varies markedly among individuals. Those whose brain scans showed the most receptor activity proved on personality tests to have the strongest proclivity to spiritual acceptance.

Reporting in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers see the evidence as contradicting the common belief that religious behavior is determined strictly by environmental and cultural factors. They see a biological underpinning for religiosity, and it is related to the neurotransmitter serotonin.


Psychology Today Magazine, Nov/Dec 2003
Last Reviewed 8 Jul 2008

link

Atheist Books

So religious types are

So religious types are serotonin junkies?

No wonder I stopped being interested in religion when I started my SSRIs

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin

JillSwift's picture

Note to Cabal Central

Note to Cabal Central Comitee: Less flouride, more paroxetine for the water mix.

ProzacDeathWish's picture

I just threw away my

I just threw away my Marplan  (  didn't work anyway...)

study

I found this study in the medical literature a few years ago. The problem with it is that it only 15 male subjects were "tested." If anyone wants it, PM me and I can send the pdf file. I'd like to see a similar study done with a few thousand humans! THAT would be interesting!

The Serotonin System and Spiritual Experiences

Jacqueline Borg, Psychol., M.Sc., Bengt Andrée, M.D., Ph.D., Henrik Soderstrom, M.D., Ph.D., and Lars Farde, M.D., Ph.D.

OBJECTIVE:

The serotonin system has long been of interest in biological models of human personality. The purpose of this positron emission tomography (PET) study was to search for relationships between serotonin 5-HT1A receptor density and personality traits.

aiia's picture

I just knew these nuts where

I've alway been suspious that religious nuts where high on something

For me this could explain a

For me this could explain a lot. I'm the least motivated person I know.

shelley's picture

kelly, is is true that

kelly, is is true that serotonin levels decrease with age?

Hambydammit's picture

Quote:I found this study in

Quote:
I found this study in the medical literature a few years ago. The problem with it is that it only 15 male subjects were "tested."

~sigh~

Seems odd to go to all the trouble to do this test and then have such a small sample size.  Do you happen to remember what the p value was for this result?

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

HisWillness's picture

Hambydammit wrote:Do you

Hambydammit wrote:

Do you happen to remember what the p value was for this result?

Not to be a dick, but with a sample size that small, is it really relevant?

Saint Will: no gyration without funkstification.
fabulae! nil satis firmi video quam ob rem accipere hunc mi expediat metum. - Terence

 Apparently I am deficient

 Apparently I am deficient of seratonin, but I am one of the most theistic people in the world.

 

By the way, this guy totally refuted your video "Theism a Mind Disorder."

 

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcG4xaCfdQw

 

 

aiia's picture

Jerud1711 wrote: Apparently

Jerud1711 wrote:

 Apparently I am deficient of seratonin,

 

How so?

 

Jerud1711 That video is

Jerud1711

  That video is stupid because theism means dogma , and dogma is stupid , and stupid  is a disordering problem .... 

  The definition of god is fucked up .... the proof is the gods of theism .... and so the ATHEISM ....

  The atheists rightfully fight this theists definition,

  The truth is "all is god" .... GOD is Atheist .... NO mAsTeR    Fuck off , all you idol worshipers .... all you SEPARATISTS ..... fuck you ..... I will make the division clear in your head, and reveal the hypocrites  , said a wise one ..... who brought a sword.

     See the division, and only then can we fix it .... to heal heal the blind .... who cannot see .... that ALL is ONE.

 

shelley's picture

i asked this earlier but i

i asked this earlier but i think it got drown out by other comments... ignoring the flaws of this study, if serotonin is linked to spirituality how would this relate to decreasing serotonin levels yet increasing religiosity common with increasing age?

(i don't know that serotonin decreases with age though... does anyone know this as a fact?)

aiia's picture

Age

According to this article http://www.nature.com/npp/journal/v24/n5/full/1395635a.html

Quote:
The main finding of this in vivo brain-imaging study in healthy volunteers was a significant decline of 5-HT1A receptor density in the range of approximately 10% per decade, except for the medial temporal cortex and the raphe nuclei, where we did not find such a decline.

Which would suggest, when these 2 studies are correlated, religiosity is located in either the medial temporal cortex region or the raphe nuclei region.

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.

EXC's picture

aiia wrote:I've alway been

aiia wrote:

I've alway been suspious that religious nuts where high on something

Religion will end when science comes up with a better drug.

 

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca

aiia's picture

a better drug

I think understanding and adherence to the basic principles of reasoning would eliminate most religious beliefs.

 

What would be interesting is a study on whether if after learning the principles of reasoning affects serotonin levels and whether religiosity can be overridden with the practical application of reasoning despite no change in serotonin levels. 

 

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.

EXC's picture

aiia wrote:I think

aiia wrote:

I think understanding and adherence to the basic principles of reasoning would eliminate most religious beliefs.

 

But people are not 100% rational, we are chemical creatures and the chemicals cause us to behave in ways that are often irrational. Evolutionary biology reveals that what survives is what is the features that are most advantageous to survival. Being religious may have certain advantages over being rational. Genes and memes don't care about what we think of irrational behaviors, what survives is what works.

We are chemical creatures. So you see people make decisions all the time based on the chemistry that drives us not what is rational. Humans have sex and children because of the hormones that drive us, not rational decisions. Same for eating, taking drugs, etc... These studies reveal religion is just another drug.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca

Hambydammit's picture

I just wanted to throw a

I just wanted to throw a word of caution into this discussion -- scientific caution, that is.  Serotonin has been linked to a LOT of different things in studies.  Among the most common links are mood (depression/elation), body temperature, sexual preference, libido, appetite, weight gain, weight loss, vomiting, infant death syndrome, regulation of the heart, etc... etc...

The first thing to bear in mind is that any organism is far more complex than a set of on/off switches, and it's very often just dead wrong to say that X chemical causes Y effect.  Imagine a row of binary, something like this:

 

0000000000

 

All the "switches" are off.  Now, imagine that we turn #1 on.  That triggers several more to turn on:

1001100100

 

However, if we turn on both #1 and #2, we get this:

111100100

Then, if we turn on only #2, we get this:

011110000

 

You can see that each number triggers more than one other number to turn off or on, but the implications are far greater than that.  Presumably, each of the ten slots is effected by the on/off status of each of the other nine, so that it becomes impossible to say "Number two turns number three on and number five off" with complete accuracy.  We only know that's what happens when slot number one is turned on.

Now, imagine that level of complexity, only with 60,000 slots.  You're beginning to understand the difficulty in saying that a certain gene, or certain chemical, "causes" something to happen.  Genetics is a lot more complicated than simple cause and effect relationships.  It's a gigantic interconnected web, each strand of which is effected by changes in many, or maybe even most, of the other strands.

I've read through this study (see Deludedgod's rant on people who don't read the full study) and it's my opinion that the data is good, but the sample size is far too small to draw a strong conclusion.  If I were in the grant office, I would say that this study demonstrated the need for more study, and would give them more money to do a larger sample.

The thing that makes this study significant is the big difference in the p value in the categories involving "self-transcendence," which basically means attitudes and acceptance of spirituality.  This was the only category that got anywhere near a value of 0.01, which means that there's about a 1% chance that the data could be the result of random chance.  In science, one percent is sometimes a LOT, and this is only fifteen subjects.  If this result came back from a study of a hundred people, with the same kind of correlations across the board, we'd have a much lower p value, and a much more reliable study.

So, for all the people accusing scientists of "guessing," let this be a lesson.  Even though I'd love to have a verifiable biological explanation of why people are religious, I'm not jumping on this bandwagon until I see more studies, more subjects, and in particular, a much more thorough demonstration that it is only serotonin, and not a combination of factors, causing this attitude in subjects.

They even mention this possibility in the study, noting the drug salvatorin A, which sometimes induces "spiritual experiences" and does not act on the same receptor system as serotonin.

 

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

aiia's picture

EXC wrote:aiia wrote:I think

EXC wrote:

aiia wrote:

I think understanding and adherence to the basic principles of reasoning would eliminate most religious beliefs.

 

But people are not 100% rational, we are chemical creatures and the chemicals cause us to behave in ways that are often irrational. Evolutionary biology reveals that what survives is what is the features that are most advantageous to survival. Being religious may have certain advantages over being rational. Genes and memes don't care about what we think of irrational behaviors, what survives is what works.

We are chemical creatures. So you see people make decisions all the time based on the chemistry that drives us not what is rational. Humans have sex and children because of the hormones that drive us, not rational decisions. Same for eating, taking drugs, etc... These studies reveal religion is just another drug.

So then perhaps you would be interested in these stickers? Not sure what your point is.

everythingsok.net

 

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.

ronin-dog's picture

Very interesting

I agree that this should be viewed as a preliminary study and we need a bigger sample size.

Also, as is often the case in studies promoted by the media, there really isn't enough evidence (shown in that article at least) to support their conclusion.

Does high levels of serotonin help promote religion, or does the delusion disorder known as religion increase serotonin levels leading to "serotonin junkies" that stay religious so that they can stay happy?

BTW this article does not shoot down the possibility that religion is a brain disorder, imbalanced homones often accompany such illness.

Zen-atheist wielding Occam's katana.

Jesus said, "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division." - Luke 12:51

Hambydammit's picture

Quote:Does high levels of

Quote:
Does high levels of serotonin help promote religion, or does the delusion disorder known as religion increase serotonin levels leading to "serotonin junkies" that stay religious so that they can stay happy?

I've read the study.  It isn't close to answering these questions, for a lot of reasons.  For one thing, in order to address the question of the delusion disorder known as religion, you'd need a scientific definition of "delusion disorder" and "religion."  For another thing, establishing the correlation of serotonin and belief in spirituality is a long way from establishing a correlation between serotonin and the propagation of religion, whether consciously or unconsciously.  For another thing, serotonin has been linked to a lot of other things in human behavior, and establishing a direct causal line will probably be impossible, since things like sexual orientation, self esteem, and depression all have a lot of influence on religious behavior.

In short, I think you're confusing a lot of sociological questions (or maybe evolutionary psych questions) with neurological ones.  These scientists won't be addressing your questions.  They'll simply be showing the correlation between a chemical and a mental state.  It will be up to other disciplines to combine this data with sociological data to hypothesize about the role of serotonin in religious behavior.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

ronin-dog's picture

I'm not confused, that's the

I'm not confused, that's the point I'm trying to make... They simply can't make this claim:

"the researchers see the evidence as contradicting the common belief that religious behavior is determined strictly by environmental and cultural factors. They see a biological underpinning for religiosity, and it is related to the neurotransmitter serotonin."

based on that study. A study like this provides interesting information, but no-one should go making claims that they can't fully back up. The scientists don't address my questions, but based on the information they gathered they should be posing them as topics for further study.

Zen-atheist wielding Occam's katana.

Jesus said, "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division." - Luke 12:51

Hambydammit's picture

Ok, Ronin.  I understand

Ok, Ronin.  I understand what you're saying now.

It looks to me like this study, if verified in a larger sample, would provide a good foundation for the tendency to gravitate towards religion.  It would certainly provide a potential beginning for an explanation of why very intelligent people still believe in god despite understanding all the reasons it can't exist.  I think that if read scientifically, their statement is accurate.  This study does contradict the theory that religion is largely cultural.  To a scientist reading this, it's not saying, "This study proves the case."  It's saying, "This study does not fit the hypothesis, and so either the study is wrong, or the hypothesis needs adjustment."  The casual reader is likely to read lots of other things into the statement, and they just aren't there.


 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

Jesterspace's picture

Religion as a mental disorder.. but we knew that..

Sounds in a similar vein to the TLE studies

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temporal_lobe_epilepsy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZEANqRLLIU

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1867

With all the jokes we make about religion being an illness.. shame that we actually HAVE the data to back up such claims.

 

"Imperious, choleric, irascible, extreme in everything, with a dissolute imagination the like of which has never been seen, atheistic to the point of fanaticism, there you have me in a nutshell.... Kill me again or take me as I am, for I shall not change.

BiMama25's picture

Wow.  I had a knee-jerk

Wow.  I had a knee-jerk reaction to atheists all my early brainwashed life.  Then in my 20s I learned I had OCD (*highly* linked to super-religiousity) and got treatment; now I don't believe in God. 

 

There's a *CURE* for blind faith!

the media is only as liberal as the conservative companies that own them

ragnarok's picture

Is that your final answer?

  If, as some of the data suggests (albeit weakly), we are apt to find a biological reason for belief, wouldn't we be in danger of some kind of chicken-or-the-egg paradox in determining its genesis?  Surely it needs to be viewed as a kind of illness, or at the very least a serious imbalance, since heightened serotonin levels experienced for prolonged periods of time result in mental exhaustion, and as a former LSD burnout I can attest to it with first-hand knowledge.  I have trouble trusting reports like this, because they almost always appear like harmless scientific method until you find out that the researchers themselves have undertaken the experiments to prove their own religious beliefs are natural and therefore valid (blah, blah, blah, yadda yadda yadda, Q.E.D., God exists).  Just because they're Swedes doesn't mean they can't be biased. 

I have little poignant or anecdotal to share in this space, but I'm glad I wrote something that made someone like you waste their time reading it. HAVE SOME.

Serontin studies

I find no problem with the research.  What I find is that religiosity and spirituality are extremely different.  I am NOT a religious person.  Religion is a group of people all having the same belief system, or a variance on a belief system.  (i.e. Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Hindu, Buddhists, Muslims etc).

 

I AM however, spiritual.  I do not believe in a certain type of god.  I believe in positive energy.."the force" as you might call it.  The experiences I have had have also been observed by many others.  They are not something my brain chemistry has cooked up due to an overly large production of serontin. 

 

I'm not saying there is a man in the sky who controls us, or even helps us.  I'm saying there are energy forces that some are able to tap into and use for whatever reasons they might have.  You can't see electricity but it works.

 

Sincerely

Diane

Finally, we have an

Finally, we have an explanation for that dumb ass permanent smile on Pat Robertson's face.

All this time I thought it was the butt loads of cash my grandmother was sending him.

The idea that seratonin is

The idea that seratonin is the cause of religious belief, is the classical post hoc (false cause) fallacy.

I am very religious, but apparently have no (or little) seratonin, because seratonin is a "feel good" chemical. I feel like crap 100% of the time. No antidepressant medications ever work for me. And we have concluded that with people like me, we have low levels of seratonin. This is why depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders exist.

The pineal gland releases

The pineal gland releases DMT  - the spiriti molecule. Read "DMT: THE SPIRIT MOLECULE," by Dr. Strassman.

He did many case studies on this potent psychadelic. Initially he believed the visions of beings and thngs people were having were hallucinations. But now after all his research, he believes the beings (angelic and demonic) are actually real. He told me this in a personal email. Read his book.

Hambydammit's picture

 Quote:The idea that

 

Quote:
The idea that seratonin is the cause of religious belief, is the classical post hoc (false cause) fallacy.

Not reading studies all the way through and misunderstanding scientific correlation is the classic "I'm not a scientist but think I can make conclusions about science" fallacy.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

JillSwift's picture

Hambydammit

Hambydammit wrote:

 

Quote:
The idea that seratonin is the cause of religious belief, is the classical post hoc (false cause) fallacy.

Not reading studies all the way through and misunderstanding scientific correlation is the classic "I'm not a scientist but think I can make conclusions about science" fallacy.

The "nullus cogito, reprobo" fallacy. (from a lack of thought, rejection.)

 

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray

Hambydammit's picture

 Quote:The "nullus cogito,

 

Quote:
The "nullus cogito, reprobo" fallacy. (from a lack of thought, rejection.)

Ooooh... I like it.

Oh, and by the way, I'd just like to say again to the previous poster.  Get a fucking degree.  Read the fucking study.  It doesn't say what you think it says, but you wouldn't know that because you didn't fucking read it.

There.  I feel better now.  God dammit, I get sick of people who read headlines and think they know what a study is about.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

HisWillness's picture

JillSwift wrote:The "nullus

JillSwift wrote:

The "nullus cogito, reprobo" fallacy. (from a lack of thought, rejection.)

Where did you see that phrase? Do you mean "Nullius cogito, reprobo"? "Nullus cogito, reprobo" would mean "Nothing, I think, I reject," which doesn't make any sense. But then, even with the genitive "nullius" it's weird. Sometimes Latin phrases out of context are confusing, and medieval Latin even more so.

Saint Will: no gyration without funkstification.
fabulae! nil satis firmi video quam ob rem accipere hunc mi expediat metum. - Terence

JillSwift's picture

HisWillness wrote:JillSwift

HisWillness wrote:

JillSwift wrote:

The "nullus cogito, reprobo" fallacy. (from a lack of thought, rejection.)

Where did you see that phrase? Do you mean "Nullius cogito, reprobo"? "Nullus cogito, reprobo" would mean "Nothing, I think, I reject," which doesn't make any sense. But then, even with the genitive "nullius" it's weird. Sometimes Latin phrases out of context are confusing, and medieval Latin even more so.

Yeah, I mean "Nullius cogito, reprobo". I'm way out of practice.


 

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray

Desdenova's picture

I can't find a citation for

I can't find a citation for this, but I do remember a seminar a few years back that mentioned a decrease in serotonin possibly being linked to the behavior problems seen in Alzheimer's patients. What little I can remember about the lecture seemed to indicate that this was only documented in ' late lifer's ' and in Alzheimer's, not necessarily elderly in general. Granted, I  was pretty hung over during the seminar and was more interested in the nurse practitioner that I had hung out with the night before than the lecturer.

It takes a village to raise an idiot.

Save a tree, eat a vegetarian.

Sometimes " The Majority " only means that all the fools are on the same side.

aiia's picture

Hambydammit wrote:Oh, and by

Hambydammit wrote:
Oh, and by the way, I'd just like to say again to the previous poster.  Get a fucking degree.  Read the fucking study.  It doesn't say what you think it says, but you wouldn't know that because you didn't fucking read it.

There.  I feel better now.  God dammit, I get sick of people who read headlines and think they know what a study is about.

I've, as well as every rational thinker here, seen this happen repeatedly. When Incognito reads, she/he sees only what she/he wants to see. It is very disturbing that possibly the majority only see and hear what they think they already "know". Possibly this behavior is ingrained in religious belief.  

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.

Incognito wrote:The idea

Incognito wrote:

The idea that seratonin is the cause of religious belief, is the classical post hoc (false cause) fallacy.

I am very religious, but apparently have no (or little) seratonin, because seratonin is a "feel good" chemical. I feel like crap 100% of the time. No antidepressant medications ever work for me. And we have concluded that with people like me, we have low levels of seratonin. This is why depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders exist.

The study didn't say anything about high serotonin levels. It mentioned more serotonin receptors. That actually makes more sense - it says that religious folk are addicted to serotonin and aren't getting it. You're jonesing for serotonin and your God rituals aren't meeting your need.

So if your religion isn't even giving you good feelings (by your own admission) - why are you doing it?

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin

Hambydammit's picture

 Quote:The study didn't say

 

Quote:
The study didn't say anything about high serotonin levels. It mentioned more serotonin receptors. That actually makes more sense - it says that religious folk are addicted to serotonin and aren't getting it. You're jonesing for serotonin and your God rituals aren't meeting your need.

To be precise, this is a likely explanation for the results, if they are repeatable.  The study doesn't say this is what's happening.  The study says the results imply this conclusion.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

Hambydammit

Hambydammit wrote:

 

Quote:
The study didn't say anything about high serotonin levels. It mentioned more serotonin receptors. That actually makes more sense - it says that religious folk are addicted to serotonin and aren't getting it. You're jonesing for serotonin and your God rituals aren't meeting your need.

To be precise, this is a likely explanation for the results, if they are repeatable.  The study doesn't say this is what's happening.  The study says the results imply this conclusion.

 

 


 

You are correct. My thanks.

I feel a lot less religious on my meds but that's really neither here nor there.

 

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin

Hambydammit's picture

 Sorry for being nitpicky,

 Sorry for being nitpicky, but I just cussed someone out over this, so I gotta be an equal opportunity bitch.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

Hambydammit wrote: Sorry

Hambydammit wrote:

 Sorry for being nitpicky, but I just cussed someone out over this, so I gotta be an equal opportunity bitch.

 

No worries. If I'm making a leap toward an unfounded conclusion, I'd rather know sooner than later.

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin

Well there is a difference

Well there is a difference between believing in a religion and having religious experiences. And theyre just pointing out that there is a correlation between seratonin and religious experience. Correlation doesn't equal causality.