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People with epilepsy "feel God" but pray less often

22 October, 2002

Researchers claim that people with epilepsy are more likely to have "daily spiritual experiences" than people without the condition, however, they are less likely to pray or attend religious services.

Presenting their research at the annual meeting of the American Neurological Association, Dr Thomas Hayton, from the University of Edinburgh, and Dr Laura Boyland of New York University explained that they studied 91 people with epilepsy in the New York area and compared their findings to a US national sample of the general public.

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, this new research identified that increased spiritual feelings were present "across all types of epilepsy".

The study tried to quantify people's religious and spiritual feelings in a 39 question survey, for example asking them to rate statements such as "I feel God's presence" on a numeric scale with a score of 1 for "Many times a day" to 6 for "Never or almost never."

Dr Hayton commented:

"People in the national sample said they prayed more often and went to church more often than the epilepsy patients, but the epilepsy patients reported a greater personal connection to God."