Brick Johnstone
University of Missouri

Neuropsychological Basis of Spiritual Transcendence, Virtues, and Moral Behaviors

Project Description:

I will collaborate with CTI colleagues to expand my neuropsychological models of spiritual experiences, virtues, and moral behaviors. My research with persons with brain injury indicates that spiritual transcendence is related to decreased “self-orientation” associated with decreased right parietal lobe functioning, while human virtues (i.e., empathy, altruism) are related to increased “other-orientation” associated with increased left hemisphere functioning. For my CTI project I propose to validate my neuropsychological models of spiritual transcendence, virtues, and moral behaviors with Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims in India (based on pending application to Templeton Foundation). CTI Fellows with expertise in the humanities (e.g., theology, cultural anthropology, ethics) can help refine the models to determine how cultural, religious, and social factors influence the development and experience of these traits (e.g., numinous vs. mystical). Implications exist for individual (mental/spiritual health) and communal benefits (ethics, Peace Studies, reconciliation projects). Outputs will include scientific/humanities articles and a book.

Dr. Johnstone is a neuropsychologist and Professor in the Department of Health Psychology at the University of Missouri. His research has focused on the neuropsychological foundations of spiritual experiences (e.g., transcendence, forgiveness) and prosocial traits (e.g., empathy, altruism). Dr. Johnstone has been nationally and internationally recognized for his efforts as evidenced by his election as a Fellow in the National Academy of Neuropsychology and APA Rehabilitation Psychology Division, his selection as a Fulbright Scholar at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and his receipt of an APA Rehabilitation Psychology Division Lifetime Research Achievement Award.