A deep experience of Thanksgiving is quite complex, even from the view of scientists. Feelings of thanksgiving or gratitude, involves many brain areas known to be important for the senses, feeling, mental reflection, empathy, and decision-making. Forgiveness can be seen to involve regions associated with empathy, memory, and social reward. Charity, at least as it can be studied in this sort of research, appears to utilize brain areas rich in personal experiences, familiar people, and stories. For those who celebrate Thanksgiving as a religious holiday, there is now an additional insight into the process of giving thanks to God.
When Carmelite nuns were asked to pray or sense the presence of God while in an fMRI scanner, a diverse pattern of activation could be seen (for the scientific: right medial orbitofrontal cortex, right middle temporal cortex, right inferior and superior parietal lobes, right caudate, left medial prefrontal, left anterior cingulate, left inferior parietal, left insula, left caudate, left brainste, extra-striate visual). The complexity of brain regions seemed to surprise the scientists - emotions and mental reflection, of course, but also a complex activation of many different brain regions known to be associated with multisensory experience, body and visual imagery, but also regions associated with feelings of justice, peace, happiness, and unconditional love.
On this note, we would like to wish you may find joy and blessings this Thanksgiving season. We give thanks for your prayers and your many expressions of kindness this past year.
Spiritual Experience and fMRI pdf
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Thanksgiving and Charity
Eide Neurolearning Blog: The Science of Thanksgiving