Daniel Cohen
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
305 Swallow Hall

Ph.D., University of Virginia


South Asian Religions; Religion and Neuroscience

My teaching and research interests include South Asian religions as well as the interconnection between religion and neuroscience.

My ongoing interest in religion and spirituality has led to collaborative interdisciplinary research, and many peer-reviewed publications including: comparative studies on religious and spiritual dispositions of individuals with different medical diagnoses (cancer, traumatic brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury, epilepsy); research on the religious, spiritual, and personality characteristics of individuals from five local faith traditions; brain imagining (MRI) studies of individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) correlated with measures of religiosity, spirituality, transcendence, and empathy; multiple research studies with individuals suffering from different forms of brain injury or dysfunction to investigate relationships between neuropsychological function, religiosity, spirituality, and transcendence. Research studies have been conducted in the U.S. and in India with colleagues from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT, Kanpur).

I have published numerous articles and one book (Elsevier/Academic Press) on the neuroscience of spiritual experience and the evolution of religion and spirituality.

In my research I work with colleagues from multiple disciplines including scholars and researchers from other universities both in the U.S. and internationally. My diversified academic background (Anthropology, Religious Studies, and Biology) and ongoing commitment to interdisciplinary research allow me to explore interconnections between the humanities, sciences, and social sciences and to build a broader multidisciplinary understanding of religion and spirituality in our rapidly globalizing and changing world.

Courses that I teach cover topics related to religion, spirituality, neuroscience, psychology, environmental ethics, South Asian religions (especially Hinduism and Buddhism), and globalization of yoga and meditation practices. Several of my courses are cross listed: South Asia Studies, East Asian Studies, Psychological Sciences.


RS 2110 Global Religions

RS 2930 Religion and Psychological Perspectives

RS 3200 Hinduism

RS 3230 Buddhism and Environmental Ethics

RS 3240 Buddhism of South and Southeast Asia

RS 3260 Hindu Goddesses

RS 3270 Yoga and Meditation in the Modern World

RS 4200/7200 Religion, Spirituality, and the Brain


Co-Principal Investigator, 2022-2024, "A Longitudinal fMRI Study of Theistic Relational Cognition in Individuals with Neurologic Dysfunction" John Templeton Foundation/Shirley Ryan Lab, $474,353 (see: https://www.cognitiveneuroscienceofreligion.org/about/funded-projects)

Select Publications

Cohen, D., & Johnstone, B. (2023). Evolution of the parietal lobe in the formation of an enhanced “sense of self”: The neuropsychological foundations of socialization, prosocial behaviors, and religion. Journal of Cognition and Culture (accepted)

Cohen, D., Bhushan, B., Hanks, R., Yoon, D. P., Johnstone, B., Holliday, G., & Grover, A. (2021). Examining cultural, ethnic, and religious differences with the Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness and Spirituality in the U.S. and India. Journal of Religion and Health, 1-15.

Cohen, D. (2021). Naturalism, religion, and mental disorders. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 7(1), 21–38.

Cohen, D., Bhushan, B. Hanks, R., Yoon, D. P., Johnstone, B., & Hunt, I. (2020). The Right Parietal Lobe, Sense of Self, and Empathy: Cross-cultural, Ethnic, and Religious Considerations. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 23(5), 375-397.

Cohen, D. (2020/2018). Changing Brains: From Primal Horde to Nuclear Family to Religion. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 10(1), 72-77.

Cohen, D. (2019). Sex and the Evolution of Spirituality. In Jay R. Feierman and Lluis Oviedo, (Eds.), The Evolution of Religion, Religiosity and Theology: A Multi-Level and Multi-Disciplinary Approach, (pp. 54-69). New York, NY: Routledge.

Johnstone, B., & Cohen, D. (2019). Neuroscience, Selflessness, and Spiritual Experience: Explaining the Science of Transcendence. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.