Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

What neuroscience tells us about spiritual experiences

(Shunli Zhao/ Getty)
(Shunli Zhao/ Getty)

Spiritual experiences vary by faith, culture, and the individual.

“It was a warm pressure sensation at the base of my spine. It was really pleasant and peaceful. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced,” says On Point listener Fred Retes.

“One night as we headed over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco in the early evening, I felt sudden clarity and knowing that San Francisco was … where I needed to be,” says listener Deb McGuire.

Is science showing us that these experiences are more similar than we think?

“There’s not one part of our brain that turns on when we become spiritual,” says neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg.

“In many ways, it’s taking the existing aspects of how our brain functions and looks at the world, and these areas turn on and turn off in way they don’t typically do, and they all are interacting in this very complex way.”

Today On Point, spirituality and the brain.


Dr. Andrew Newberg, Research Director of the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health and Professor at Thomas Jefferson University. Author of “The Varieties of Spiritual Experience: 21st Century Research and Perspectives,” among other books.

Also Featured

Fred Retes, On Point listener

Deb McGuire, On Point listener

This article was originally published on

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit