Andreas Roepstorff

Pain and Coping in The Religious Mind: Does Religion Provide Placebo Analgesia?

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterResearch

  • Section for Anthropology and Ethnography
  • Section for the Study of Religion
  • Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience
  • The Department of Neurology

Does religion provide placebo analgesia?

The purpose of our project is to understand religious coping and specifically how it might be understood a coping strategy for religious people who experience pain. The project is an interdisciplinary study joining different faculties and academic institutions, i.e. the Religion, Cognition and Culture (RCC) research area at The Faculty of Theology, Centre of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience (CFIN) and The Danish Pain Research Centre (DPRC) at the University of Aarhus and Aarhus University Hospital.

The team will design fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) experiments and use experimental pain stimuli to assess how a target group of religious participants react to and experience pain during religious activities/stimuli, prayer and religious symbols. In addition, different biomarkers will be measured to register the somatic response of these activities (heart rate variability, blood pressure, cortisol and oxytocin levels). Questionnaires and short interviews will give us a further assessment of the pain experience of the participants, their religious beliefs and practices as well as their previous experience with religious coping strategies.

We hypothesize that the target group will have a higher pain threshold and pain tolerance during religious practice compared to a non-religious control group, and the fMRI experiments are expected to show reduced neural activity (BOLD) in areas of the brain correlating with pain experience during personal prayer and religious stimuli (target) and increased neural activity in reward systems during personal prayer and religious stimuli (target).

To complement the clinical experiments, field work in Mauritius during the Hindu Thaipusam Festival 2010 will explore how pain in an online ritual setting is experienced by the pilgrims engaging in extreme and intense religious practices.

Furthermore, the social, cultural and historical contexts of the religious practices are expected to play an important role in setting the frame and interpreting the results.

Conclusions: TBA

Original languageEnglish
Publication year2008
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventThe Placebo Effect? Advances in Research and Implications for Clinical Trials and Clinical Practice - København, Denmark
Duration: 14 Aug 200815 Aug 2008


ConferenceThe Placebo Effect? Advances in Research and Implications for Clinical Trials and Clinical Practice

See relations at Aarhus University Citationformats

ID: 21452820