Ph.D., University of Virginia
South Asian Religions; Religion and Neuroscience
My teaching and research interests include South Asian religions and the interrelationship between religion and neuroscience.
As a Fulbright-Hays scholar I conducted extensive ethnographic research in India exploring Hindu ancestor worship, funeral traditions, and related Hindu ghost exorcism rituals. Using detailed case studies, my Ph.D. research and dissertation explored religious and cultural interpretations of mental and physical problems seen as having spiritual bases that could be mitigated through ritual treatment.
My ongoing interest in religion and spirituality has led to my involvement in ongoing interdisciplinary research at MU. This collaborative research and subsequent peer-reviewed publications have included: comparative studies on the 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 people from five local faith traditions; a brain imagining (MRI) study of individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) including measures of religiosity, spirituality, transcendence, empathy, and altruism; and several research studies involving individuals suffering from TBI using different neuropsychological, spiritual, and transcendence measures, with research conducted in the U.S. and later with colleagues in India (IIT Lucknow).
I am currently involved in a large collaborative study with colleagues from several U.S. Christian colleges investigating virtues and spirituality in college undergraduates. In addition, I am involved in an interdisciplinary pilot study at MU assessing religion and spirituality in neurosurgery (tumor) and seizure (epilepsy) patients.
In my research I work with colleagues from the MU School of Health Professions, the Medical School, Psychological Sciences, and the School of Social Work, as well as with scholars and researchers from various universities both in the U.S. and internationally. With my diversified academic background (Anthropology, Religious Studies, and Biology) and an ongoing commitment to interdisciplinary research, I am able to explore interconnections between the humanities, social sciences, and science and help build a broader interdisciplinary understanding of religion and spirituality in a rapidly globalizing world.
Courses that I teach cover topics related to South Asia, Hinduism, Buddhism, religion, neuroscience, and psychology, environmental ethics, and the globalization of yoga and meditation practices. Several of my courses are cross-listed with South Asia Studies. I have been teaching in Department of Religious Studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia since 2004.
- 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 3280 Religion and Law in America
- RS 3740 Religion and Film
- RS 4990 Senior Seminar in Religious Studies
- RS 4200/7200 Religion, Spirituality, and the Brain
- RS 8005 Yoga, Hinduism, and Globalization
Johnstone, B. and Cohen, D. Selflessness: Bridging the Neurosciences and Religious Studies. Elsevier (under contract). Publication anticipated in 2018.
Johnstone, B., Hanks, R., Bhushan, B., Cohen, D., Roseberry, J., Yoon, D. P. Selflessness as a Universal Neuropsychological Foundation of Spiritual Experiences: Validation with Christian, Hindu, and Muslim Traditions. Mental Health, Religion, and Culture, published online 20 July 2017.
Johnstone, B., Holliday, G., & Cohen, D. Heightened religiosity and epilepsy: evidence for religious-specific neuropsychological processes. Journal of Mental Health, Religion, and Culture. Published online: 22 Dec 2016.
Johnstone, B., Cohen, D., Konopacki, K., and Ghan, C. Selflessness as a Foundation of Spiritual Transcendence: Perspectives from the Neurosciences and Religious Studies. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 26, no. 4 (Oct. 2016): 287-303.
Johnstone, B., Bhushan, B., Hanks, R., Yoon, D., & Cohen, D.
Factor Structure of the Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality in US and Indian Samples with Traumatic Brain Injury.
Journal of Religion and Health, 55, no. 2, (April 2016): 572–586.
Jones, A., Cohen, D., Johnstone, B., Yoon, D. P., Schopp, L., McCormack, G, and Campbell, J.
Relationships between Negative Spiritual Beliefs and Health Outcomes for Individuals with Chronic Disabilities and Medical Conditions.
Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 17, no. 2 (May 2015): 135-152.
Johnstone, B., Cohen, D., Bryant, K. R., Glass, B., and Christ, S. E.
Functional and Structural Indices of Empathy: Evidence for Self-orientation as a Neuropsychological Foundation of Empathy.
Neuropsychology 29, no. 3 (May 2015): 463-472.
Cohen, D. Ghost exorcism, memory, and healing, in Hinduism. In Disease, Religion and Healing in Asia: Collaborations and Collisions, Ivette M. Vargas-O'Bryan and Zhou Xun, (Editors), pp. 71-85, Routledge Studies in Asian Religion and Philosophy (Vol. 14), 2015, New York: Routledge.
Johnstone, B., Yoon, D. P., Cohen, D., Schoop, L. H., McCormack, G., Campbell, J., and Smith, M.
Relationships Among Spirituality, Religious Practices, Personality Factors, and Health for Five Different Faith Traditions".
Journal of Religion and Health 51, no. 4 (Dec. 2012): 1017-1041.
Johnstone, B., Bodling, A., Cohen, D., Christ, S. E., and Wegrzyn, A. Right Parietal Lobe-Related “Selflessness” as the Neuropsychological Basis of Spiritual Transcendence. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 22, no. 4 (Sept. 2012): 267-284.
Cohen, D., Yoon, D. P., and Johnstone, B. Differentiating the Impact of Spiritual Experiences, Religious Practices, and Congregational Support on the Mental Health of Individuals with Heterogeneous Medical Disorders. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 19, no. 2 (June 2009): 121–138.