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Documentary to investigate link between temporal lobe epilepsy and religion

16 April, 2003

A documentary, to be shown on UK television this week, investigates the links between temporal lobe epilepsy and religion.

Previous research had identified a 'temporal lobe personality' known as Geschwind Syndrome - personality features associated with temporal lobe epilepsy, including hyperreligiosity (excessive devotion to religion). However, research late last year identified that increased spiritual feelings were present "across all types of epilepsy".

The programme tells the stories of Rudi Affolter and Gwen Tighe. Both have temporal lobe epilepsy and both have experienced strong religious visions. Rudi is an atheist who thought he had died, while Gwen in a Christian who thought she had given birth to Jesus.

The programme argues that if there is a part of the brain closely connected with the sensations of belief, then this raises huge issues. It will follow Dr Michael Persinger who thinks magnetic fields can generate religious feelings in anyone and show him experimenting on atheist Professor Richard Dawkins.

'Horizon: God On The Brain' will be shown on Thursday 17 April at 9pm on BBC TWO.