Neurologists have found that damage in a certain part of the brain is linked to an increase in religious fundamentalism as lesions in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex reduces cognitive flexibility and makes someone more inclined to reject new ideas, leading to the cultivation of extreme religious beliefs.
According to reports, the scientists, led by Jordan Grafman of Northwestern University, utilized data gathered from Vietnam War veterans as part of the ‘Vietnam Head Injury Study’. They compared levels of religious fundamentalism between 119 vets who had lesions and 30 veterans who didn’t. The new study published in the journal Neuropsychologia.
“They were all male American combat veterans. This limits the generalization to other groups of people including women, people from other countries, and people who come from cultures with different primary religious beliefs.
The prefrontal cortex in brain is associated with a number of higher functions, including planning and perception. Damage to this area makes people less able to critically evaluate their religious beliefs against those of other people, Daily Mail reported.
“The variation in the nature of religious beliefs are governed by specific brain areas in the anterior parts of the human brain and those brain areas are among the most recently evolved areas of the human brain,” Grafman said.
Previous research had suggested that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is situated in the frontal lobe of the brain, was a “critical hub” for belief systems.
However, the scientists does specify that they are not stating religious people overall are mentally inflexible or that belief is caused by brain damage. But in some people, the system of “belief revision” may become suppressed due to brain damage.