Our brains have two attentional networks – dorsal and ventral – that interact in a dynamic way. The dorsal attention network is our top-down attention; it filters incoming sensory and perceptual information, and while this is helpful in keeping us focused on the task or goal at hand, it also filters out unintentional information. When this inhibitory filter is released, our ventral attention network, our bottom-up attention, takes over. We found that spiritual experiences engage the ventral attention network, making us available to information outside of our immediate conscious awareness or control, allowing us to receive unanticipated but personally meaningful perceptions. The ventral attention network is where we receive the sudden breakthroughs common among the spiritual narratives – those flashes of clarity and insight.
From “The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for an Inspired Life” by Lisa Miller, PhD