Deficits in the automatic activation of religious concepts in patients with Parkinsons disease

Paul M. Butler, Patrick McNamara, Raymon Durso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Religion is central to the lives of billions of people worldwide. To probe processing dynamics of religious cognition and its potential brain correlates, we used a novel priming procedure to assess the integrity of religious and control semantic networks in patients with Parkinsons disease (PD) and controls. Priming for control, but not religious, concepts was intact in PD patients. Patients with left-onset (right-forebrain disease) evidenced severe impairment activating religious concepts. We next modeled the priming performance with modified cable equations. These analyses suggested that deficient performance of PD patients on activation of religious concepts was due to a change in the time constants governing gain and rate of decay of activation in these semantic networks. These modeling results are consistent with dopaminergic dysfunction in right-sided striatal-prefrontal networks. We conclude that right striatal-prefrontal dopaminergic networks support activation of complex religious concepts but not equally complex and related control concepts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-261
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Dopamine
  • Frontal lobes
  • Gain/decay hypothesis
  • Neurodegenerative disorders
  • Religion
  • Semantic memory


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