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Over the past decade or so, numerous studies have suggested that prayer and meditation can enhance physical health and healing from illness. In this stimulating and provocative book, two academics at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Spirituality and the Mind contend that contemplating God actually reduces stress, which in turn prevents the deterioration of the brain's dendrites and increases neuroplasticity. The authors conclude that meditation and other spiritual practices permanently strengthen neural functioning in specific parts of the brain that aid in lowering anxiety and depression, enhancing social awareness and empathy, and improving cognitive functioning. The book's middle section draws on the authors' research on how people experience God and where in the brain that experience might be located. Finally, the authors offer exercises for enhancing physical, mental and spiritual health. Their suggestions are commonsensical and common to other kinds of health regimens: smile, stay intellectually active, consciously relax, yawn, meditate, exercise aerobically, dialogue with others and trust in your beliefs. Although the book's title is a bit misleading, since it is not God but spiritual practice that changes the brain, this forceful study could stir controversy among scientists and philosophers. Illus. (Mar. 24)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.