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Religion is the opiate of the people” – Karl Marx had famously said. But can one’s faith in God really ease pain? “Yes”, say scientists. SPAN>
A team at Oxford University has based its findings on an experiment in which 12 Roman Catholics and 12 atheists were “tortured” with electric shocks as they studied two paintings – Virgin Mary and Leonardo da Vinci‘s Lady With An Ermine.
The subjects spent half-an-hour inside an MRI scanner, receiving a series of 20 electric shocks in four sessions and each time they had to rate how much it hurt on a scale of 0 to 100 as they looked at the paintings.
The researchers hoped that the face of the Virgin Mary would induce a religious state of mind in the believers, while da Vinci’s painting was chosen because it did not look dissimilar and would be calming.
The scientists found that the Catholics seemed to be able to block out much of the pain.
And, using the latest brain-scanning techniques, they also discovered that the Catholics were able to activate part of the brain associated with conditioning experience of pain, the Daily Mail reported.
However, there was no such brain activity among the atheists whose pain and anxiety levels stayed roughly the same.
The Catholics said that looking at the painting of the Virgin Mary made them feel “safe”, “taken care of” and “calmed down and peaceful”.
More significantly, they reported feeling 12% less pain after viewing the religious image than after looking at the Leonardo.
The Rt Rev Tom Wright, the Anglican Bishop of Durham, welcomed the research, saying: “The practice of faith should, and in many cases does, alter the person you are. It can affect the patterns of your brain and your emotions. So it comes as no surprise to me that this experiment has reached such conclusions.”
Sources: The Times Of India
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