"What we ask is for a science that's really committed to the scientific spirit of openness but at the same time very rigorous."
Alexander Moreira-Almeida, MD, PhD, was trained in psychiatry and cognitive-behavioral therapy at the Institute of Psychiatry of the University of São Paulo, where he also obtained his PhD in Health Sciences. Formerly a postdoctoral fellow in religion and health at Duke University, he is now Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF) School of Medicine, and Founder and Director of NUPES the Research Center in Spirituality and Health. He also coordinates the TV NUPES YouTube channel.
His main research interest involves the mind-brain relationship, and empirical studies of spiritual experiences, as well as the methodology and epistemology of this research field. He's written more than 150 scientific papers and book chapters, a selection of which are free to read below.
In 2022 he co-authored the book Science of Life After Death, a cogent examination of the best available empirical evidence for the survival of consciousness. This builds on his earlier book Exploring Frontiers of the Mind-Brain Relationship, which establishes the argument for a more balanced philosophy of consciousness, one that incorporates evidence for phenomena such as mystic states, near-death experiences and past-life memories.
His rigorous research into the effects of spirituality and religious thought on mental health alone represents a significant contribution to the field of clinical psychiatry. In the book Spirituality and Mental Health Across Cultures, published by Oxford University Press, he and colleagues present a definitive body of evidence on this topic, with contributions from 38 experts in 11 countries.
As chair of the Section on Spirituality of the Latin American Psychiatric Association (APAL), former chair of the Sections on Religion, Spirituality and Psychiatry of the World Psychiatric Association, and Coordinator of the Section on Spirituality of the Brazilian Psychiatric Association, Dr Moreira-Almeida brings his open minded, post-materialist approach to science to many in the profession of psychiatry.
By Alexander Moreira-Almeida
Science of Life After Death
by Alexander Moreira-Almeida, Marianna de Abreu Costa, Humberto Schubert Coelho
Springer International Publishing, 2022
Spirituality and Mental Health Across Cultures
By Alexander Moreira-Almeida
Oxford University Press, 2021
Exploring Frontiers of the Mind-Brain Relationship
by Alexander Moreira-Almeida, Franklin Santana Santos
Springer New York, 2012
Papers of Note
Academic studies on claimed past-life memories: A scoping review
Lucam J. Moraes, Gabrielle S. Barbosaa, João Pedro G.B. Castroa, Jim B. Tucker, Alexander Moreira-Almeida
EXPLORE, 18(3), June 2021
Abstract: This study reviews observational studies regarding alleged past-life memories published as scientific articles, and points out their bibliometric and methodological characteristics. Scientific databases were screened (Scopus, Web of Science, PubMed/Medline, PsycINFO, Scielo, and OpenGrey). The 78 included studies were classified by their methodological and bibliometric characteristics. The peak of publications occurred from 1990 to 2010 (45%), and Asia was the most investigated territory (58 studies); most of investigations were related to children (84%) and case report was the predominant study design (60%). Interview was the predominant methodological approach (73%), followed by documental analysis (50%). Claimed past-life memories (100%), unusual behaviors (74%) and birthmarks/defects (37%) were the most investigated variables. Investigations of past-life memories should be encouraged around all cultures, and future studies should consider previous methodological features and try to overcome their limitations.
Methodological guidelines to investigate altered states of consciousness and anomalous experiences
International Review of Psychiatry, Volume 29, Number 3, 2017, 283–292
Abstract: Anomalous experiences (AE) (uncommon experiences or one that is believed to deviate from the usually accepted explanations of reality: hallucinations, synesthesia, experiences interpreted as telepathic …) and altered states of consciousness (ASC) have been described in all societies of all ages. Even so, scientists have long neglected the studies on this theme. To study AE and ASC is not necessary to share the beliefs we explore, they can be investigated as subjective experiences and correlated with other data, like any other human experience. This article presents some methodological guidelines to investigate these experiences, among them: to avoid dogmatic prejudice and to 'pathologize' the unusual; the value of a theory and a comprehensive literature review; to utilize a variety of criteria for pathology and normality; the investigation of clinical and non-clinical populations; development of new appropriate research instruments; to be careful to choose the wording to describe the AE; to distinguished the lived experience from its interpretations; to take into account the role of culture; to evaluate the validity and reliability of reports and, last but not least, creativity and diversity in choosing methods.
The mind-brain problem in psychiatry: why theoretical pluralism is better than theoretical monism
Alexander Moreira-Almeida, Saulo de Freitas Araujo
Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences, 10(1):23-25, June 2017
Abstract: The mind-brain problem (MBP) is a persistent challenge in philosophy and science, having marked implications for psychiatry. In this paper, we claim that physicalism, a kind of theoretical monism, is usually taken by many psychiatrists as the only possible solution to the MBP, and argue that this may have negative consequences for the field. Not only does it restrict the psychiatric training, thereby preventing professionals from considering and reflecting upon different perspectives on the MBP, but it also leads clinical psychiatrists to ignore alternatives in their research agendas and clinical care. We suggest, therefore, that, as long as the MBP remains open and disputed by divergent views, theoretical monism should give place to theoretical pluralism in psychiatry.
Does the brain produce the mind? A survey of psychiatrists’ opinions
Alexander Moreira-Almeida, Saulo de Freitas Araujo
Archives of Clinical Psychiatry (São Paulo), 42(3):74-5, July 2015
Background: Psychiatrists’ views on the mind-brain relationship (MBR) have marked clinical and research implications, but there is a lack of studies on this topic. Objectives To evaluate psychiatrists’ opinions on the MBR, and whether they are amenable to change or not. Methods: We conducted a survey of psychiatrists’ views on the MBR just before and after a debate on the MBR at the Brazilian Congress of Psychiatry in 2014. Results: Initially, from more than 600 participants, 53% endorsed the view that “the mind (your “I”) is a product of brain activity”, while 47% disagreed. Moreover, 72% contested the view that “the universe is composed only of matter”. After the debate, 30% changed from a materialist to a non-materialist view of mind, while 17% changed in the opposite way. Discussion: Psychiatrists are interested in debates on the MBR, do not hold a monolithic view on the subject and their positions are open to reflection and change, suggesting the need for more in-depth studies and rigorous but open-minded debates on the subject.
Clinical implications of spirituality to mental health: Review of evidence and practical guidelines
Alexander Moreira-Almeida, Harold Koenig, Giancarlo Lucchetti
Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, 36(2):176-82, April 2014
Objective: Despite empirical evidence of a relationship between religiosity/spirituality (R/S) and mental health and recommendations by professional associations that these research findings be integrated into clinical practice, application of this knowledge in the clinic remains a challenge. This paper reviews the current state of the evidence and provides evidence-based guidelines for spiritual assessment and for integration of R/S into mental health treatment. Methods: PubMed searches of relevant terms yielded 1,109 papers. We selected empirical studies and reviews that addressed assessment of R/S in clinical practice. Results: The most widely acknowledged and agreed-upon application of R/S to clinical practice is the need to take a spiritual history (SH), which may improve patient compliance, satisfaction with care, and health outcomes. We found 25 instruments for SH collection, several of which were validated and of good clinical utility. Conclusions: This paper provides practical guidelines for spiritual assessment and integration thereof into mental health treatment, as well as suggestions for future research on the topic.
William James and psychical research: Towards a radical science of mind
Alexandre Sech Junior, Saulo de Freitas Araujo, Alexander Moreira-Almeida
History of Psychiatry, 24(1):62-78, March 2013
Abstract: Traditional textbooks on the history of psychiatry and psychology fail to recognize William James's investigations on psychic phenomena as a legitimate effort to understand the human mind. The purpose of this paper is to offer evidence of his views regarding the exploration of those phenomena as well as the radical, yet alternative, solutions that James advanced to overcome theoretical and methodological hindrances. Through an analysis of his writings, it is argued that his psychological and philosophical works converge in psychical research revealing the outline of a science of mind capable of encompassing psychic phenomena as part of human experience and, therefore, subject to scientific scrutiny.
Neuroimaging during Trance State: A Contribution to the Study of Dissociation
Julio F P, Alexander Moreira-Almeida, Leonardo Caixeta, Andrew Newberg, Frederico Camelo Leão
PLoS ONE, 7(11):e49360, November 2012
Abstract: Despite increasing interest in pathological and non-pathological dissociation, few researchers have focused on the spiritual experiences involving dissociative states such as mediumship, in which an individual (the medium) claims to be in communication with, or under the control of, the mind of a deceased person. Our preliminary study investigated psychography – in which allegedly ‘‘the spirit writes through the medium’s hand’’ – for potential associations with specific alterations in cerebral activity. We examined ten healthy psychographers – five less expert mediums and five with substantial experience, ranging from 15 to 47 years of automatic writing and 2 to 18 psychographies per month – using single photon emission computed tomography to scan activity as subjects were writing, in both dissociative trance and non-trance states. The complexity of the original written content they produced was analyzed for each individual and for the sample as a whole. The experienced psychographers showed lower levels of activity in the left culmen, lefthippocampus, left inferior occipital gyrus, left anterior cingulate, right superior temporal gyrus and right precentral gyrus during psychography compared to their normal (non-trance) writing. The average complexity scores for psychographed content were higher than those for control writing, for both the whole sample and for experienced mediums. The fact that subjects produced complex content in a trance dissociative state suggests they were not merely relaxed, and relaxation seems an unlikely explanation for the underactivation of brain areas specifically related to the cognitive processing being carried out. This finding deserves further investigation both in terms of replication and explanatory hypotheses.
Many more excellent papers by Dr Moreira-Almeida can be found on ResearchGate and Academia.edu.