Neuroscientific study on religious chanting

Religious chanting is a common spiritual practice in across Western and Eastern countries. However, very few studies have focused on the neuroscientific aspect of religious chanting. We have conducted a study to explore the effects of chanting the name of a Buddha (Amitābha) on the brain’s response to viewing negative pictures and found that chanting Amitābha can reduce secondary impact of negative stimuli to brain activities. The result also provided scientific support for a classical Buddhist cannon, the Sallatha Sutta (The Arrow Sutra).

Our works on religious chanting are summarized as follows:

  • Applied EEG and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) techniques to study religious chanting successfully.
  • Provided partial support for the teachings in the Sallatha Sutta from a neuroscientific perspective and become the first study on this topic to our best knowledge.
  • Established source analyses in EEG/ERP studies.
  • List of disseminations and publications
    • Gao J, Leung HK, Wu BWY, Skouras S, & Sik HH (2019). The neurophysiological correlates of religious chanting. Scientific Reports (Nature Publisher Group), 9, 1-9.
    • Gao J, Fan J, Wu BW, Halkias GT, Chau M, Fung PC, Chang C, Zhang Z, Hung Y-S and Sik H. (2017). Repetitive Religious Chanting Modulates the Late-Stage Brain Response to Fear- and Stress-Provoking Pictures.  Frontiers in Psychology, 7:2055.
    • Gao J, Leung H, Wu B, So A, Sik H. (2017). Chanting Amitabha Buddha help to reduce the brain responses to fearful pictures. Summer Research Institute, New York
    • Gao J, Sik H. (2016). The influence of fusiform gyrus on the autonomic nerve system: an fMRI study on emotion and chanting (prayer). 7th Global Neurologists Annual Meeting on Neurology and Neurosurgery, August, 2016 at Vienna, Austria.
    • Gao J, HH Sik, JC Fan, B Wu, PCW Fung, Albert So, CQ Chang, ZG Zhang, YS Hung. (2014). Reduced response to stressful events during chanting Amitofo: A combined fMRI and EEG study. International Symposium for Contemplative Studies, Boston, 2014. Oct. Poster presentation.
    • Anne Wisman. (2017). Building Bridges: Researching the Efficacy of Religious Buddhist Practice at the University of Hong Kong. Buddhistdoor Global. Retrieved from: 4th Aug 2017.