Dr. Peter Eppinga, author of Your Brain, fell in love with the brain during his medical training. We were privileged to have him speak at St Simon’s on the impact of prayer on the human brain. Stuart Spani our resident film producer made an amazing DVD with Dr Eppinga entitled “Your Brain and Prayer.”
The brain has not always been seen as that significant. Aristotle thought that it was merely a radiator to cool the blood. The Egyptians carefully embalmed the heart while discarding the brain in their mummies. The brain, says Dr. Eppinga, is the new frontier, making 400 million actions per second. This three pounds of fat has four million pain sensors, 500,000 touch detectors, and 200,000 temperature gages that keep us from freezing or boiling. Our brain has no moving parts: “It isn’t hardware or software. It’s wet ware and very messy.” Our brain feeds on glucose for its fuel source. Though the brain is only 2% of our body’s weight, it takes up a staggering 20% of our body’s glucose supplies.
Dr. Eppinga says that due to neuroplasticity, you can sculpt your own brain by what you put inside of it. Research indicates that Braille readers and taxi drivers both have measurable growth in their motor cortex and hippocampi, related to their sensory and memory activities. Through exercising twenty minutes a day by walking or going to the gym, you can decrease your chances by 60 percent of getting Alzheimer’s disease or by 57 percent of having a stroke. Bible reading and prayer both renew our minds and strengthen our brains. Prayer activates our frontal lobes and anterior cingulate gyrus, resulting in increased compassion, memory function, and stress reduction. Dr. Newberg, through the use of a SPECT scanner, found that focused prayer increased activity in our frontal cortex, which is connected with creative thinking and decision making. Prayer also reduces chronically elevated levels of cortisol, which are linked with increased bone loss, reduced muscle mass, impaired immune function, and reduction in glucose utilization. Through the calming benefits of prayer, our body and mind become more resistant to disease. Prayer, said Dr. Eppinga, is the most powerful force in the universe: “God can do more through one prayer than you can do in a lifetime.”
Dr. Eppinga, from a very young age in his home town of Old Masset, Haida Gwaii, wanted to become a medical doctor, but his mother and father were unable to help him academically. As a teenager, he became a drug dealer. While intoxicated with alcohol in the back seat of a racing car, he ended upside down, drowning in a swamp. Choking on water, he prayed: “If you ever let me out of this car tonight, God, I promise I will live for you.” As Dr. Eppinga put it, “I put down the beer bottle and picked up a text book and God gave me strength to make it through.” Looking back, he believes that his parents’ persistent prayers made all the difference. He and his father now have a ministry, called Christ for First Nations, bringing healing to other aboriginal people. Dr Eppinga is living proof that prayer and medicine work well together in renewing the mind and strengthening the brain.