Keynote 3

The psychology and neuroscience of prayer

Revd Canon Dr Joanna Collicutt, Karl Jaspers Lecturer Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Ripon College, Oxford

Joanna is a chartered clinical psychologist and specialist neuropsychologist. Her research papers span cognitive behaviour therapy, brain and behaviour, natural theology, and the spirituality of children and people with special needs. She is author of several books and currently editing another on neurology and religion. She is an associate priest in a local parish and honorary canon of Christ Church Cathedral.

You can read more about Joanna’s work on her personal page at the Ripon College. She has written and co-authored several books which are perhaps best viewed on Amazon.


Prayer is an activity in which the divine and human cooperate. This talk will focus on the human side of this cooperative venture, exploring the distinctive ways in which we feel, think, and act when engaging with a range of different types of prayer. It will also look at the evidence from neuroscience that reminds us that we are physical, embodied creatures, whose brains and bodies undergo changes when we pray, and will critically examine the evidence for a distinctive pattern of brain activity in mystical experiences.