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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

Biological plausibility of spirituality in public health

Dental Pubic Health, Rajasthan University of Health Science, Rajasthan, India

Date of Submission11-Oct-2021
Date of Acceptance18-Jun-2022
Date of Web Publication07-Jul-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Rushabh J Dagli
Dental Public Health, Rajasthan University of Health Science, Rajasthan
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jhrr.jhrr_16_21

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How to cite this article:
Dagli RJ. Biological plausibility of spirituality in public health. J Health Res Rev 2022;9:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Dagli RJ. Biological plausibility of spirituality in public health. J Health Res Rev [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Jun 7];9:1-2. Available from: https://www.jhrr.org/text.asp?2022/9/1/1/350156

Spirituality has always been considered as complementary form of lifestyle rather than integrated part of existing lifestyle. Since there is lot of literature available on spirituality, and captivated readers do not have pragmatic experience, they get disguised. Partial scientific evidence and unknown biological “Plausibility” further set hurdles to its actual application in public health.

Learning spirituality as a part of mundane lifestyle entails amidst understanding and perception of its consequence in health and disease, which is fundamentally an unexplored corner in scientific literature.

Public health professionals extensively acknowledge position of spirituality as an affirmative factor on stress reduction and interleukin (IL)-6 control,[1] but its biological plausibility is not comprehended well. Few medical schools and grant program have supported this aspect of health[2] but still in substantial part of world, it is untrained in medical school curriculum.

Humanitarian activities are part of spiritual practices, which are known for altruistic behavior. Several parts of brain structure may be involved during altruistic decision-making within the mentalizing network found in functional magnetic resonance imaging, which include medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), temporoparietal junction, reward regions including the ventral tegmental area (VTA), striatum, nucleus accumbens (NaCC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), regions of the emotional salience network including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, insula, and amygdala.[3] Altruism gives feeling of rewardful and pleasure by VTA, NaCC, ACC,[4],[5] feel of better reputation by striatum,[6] better pain control, conflict monitoring, and emotional perception by ACC.[7]

Giving genuine respect can be considered root of spiritual practice, which is morally expressed in the form of “gratitude.” It involves to remain grateful for noble humanitarian and/or spiritual quality. Various laboratory instantiations of gratitude confirm to involve neural responses in value-sensitive regions of the mPFC,[8] which helps in decision-making and judgments. A recent review speculates that μ-opioids could be a potential mediator of these positive health effects.[9]

Regular practice of spirituality gradually leads to reduced perception of pleasure and pain.[10] Although person may outwardly revel the material world but due to interior lack of involvement, it eludes necessity. Researchers found that right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) cluster in brain was specifically activated in the spiritual sample when looking at their spiritual leader or Guru, but not in the non-spiritual sample. The VLPFC is also involved in other cognitive processes which are long-term memory and working memory maintenance. Post-scan reports suggested that the belief in spiritual leader leads to detachment to physical pleasure and pain perception by down-regulation of VLPFC. Watching the image of the believed spiritual leader, a calming presence of understanding and reduced fear allow these individuals to feel supported by their higher power. There was no effect on pain reduction among samples of non-spiritual controls on watching the same image.[11] VLPFC further makes individual to reduce fear perception, emotional disturbances, and hormonal imbalances, which are root causes of many chronic diseases.

Spirituality leads to automatic dietary and lifestyle by changing priorities on taste. As dependency on taste reduced, choosing junk and fast food reduces. Individual automatically makes heathy food choices with a goal to improve well-being and quality of life. Non-spiritual individuals, if they try to adopt dietary changes, are more of a mandatory to protect health rather than choice, which leads to internal conflict. The inner self will still have the desire to choose food according to taste. Such internal conflicts cannot be sustainable on long duration and become burden. Alternatively, spiritual practice offers an easy alternative by understanding appropriate reason and method for permanent and sustainable changes in lifestyle without internal conflicts.

Various schools of thoughts exist in spirituality and majority of them believe on Karmic particles existence.[12] One type of such karmic particle known as “Ashata Vedniya Karma” directly affects the health and well-being of an individual. Such karmas are built when giving physical, mental, or emotional disturbances to other. Such karmas can also be reduced by helping others with true altruism.[13] Overall there is a biological plausible relationship of spirituality on health and has wide applications if explored further.



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  References Top

Koenig HG, Cohen HJ, George LK, Hays JC, Larson DB, Blazer DG Attendance at religious services, interleukin-6, and other biological parameters of immune function in older adults. Int J Psychiatry Med 1997;27: 233-50.  Back to cited text no. 1
Puchalski CM The role of spirituality in health care. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent) 2001;14:352-7.  Back to cited text no. 2
Filkowski MM, Cochran RN, Haas BW Altruistic behavior: Mapping responses in the brain. Neurosci Neuroecon 2016;5:65-75.  Back to cited text no. 3
Liu X, Hairston J, Schrier M, Fan J Common and distinct networks underlying reward valence and processing stages: A meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging studies. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2011;35:1219-36.  Back to cited text no. 4
Sescousse G, Caldú X, Segura B, Dreher JC Processing of primary and secondary rewards: A quantitative meta-analysis and review of human functional neuroimaging studies. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2013;37:681-96.  Back to cited text no. 5
Izuma K, Saito DN, Sadato N The roles of the medial prefrontal cortex and striatum in reputation processing. Soc Neurosci 2010;5:133-47.  Back to cited text no. 6
Vogt BA Pain and emotion interactions in subregions of the cingulate gyrus. Nat Rev Neurosci 2005;6:533-44.  Back to cited text no. 7
Karns CM, Moore WE III, Mayr U The cultivation of pure altruism via gratitude: A functional MRI study of change with gratitude practice. Front Hum Neurosci 2017;11:599.  Back to cited text no. 8
Henning M, Fox GR, Kaplan J, Damasio H, Damasio A A potential role for mu-opioids in mediating the positive effects of gratitude. Front Psychol 2017;8:868.  Back to cited text no. 9
Dedeli O, Kaptan G Spirituality and religion in pain and pain management. Health Psychol Res 2013;1:e29.  Back to cited text no. 10
Wiech K, Farias M, Kahane G, Shackel N, Tiede W, Tracey I An fMRI study measuring analgesia enhanced by religion as a belief system. Pain 2008;139:467-76.  Back to cited text no. 11
Chen S, Wei H, Meng L, Ran Y Believing in karma: The effect of mortality salience on excessive consumption. Front Psychol 2019;10:1519.  Back to cited text no. 12
Vora AR Jainism Literature Center, Theory of Karma. Available from Harvard University Department Hosting: https://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~pluralsm/affiliates/jainism/article/karma.htm. Cited on April 2, 2021.  Back to cited text no. 13


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