Daniel Cohen

Daniel Cohen
Assistant Professor

Ph.D., University of Virginia

Research Interests: 

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, spirit possession and related ghost exorcism rituals. Using detailed case studies, my Ph.D. research and dissertation explored Hindu religious and cultural interpretations of mental and physical problems often seen as having spiritual bases that could be mitigated through specialized ritual treatment.

My ongoing interest in religion and spirituality has led to my involvement in ongoing interdisciplinary research. This collaborative research and subsequent peer-reviewed publications have included: 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 people from five local faith traditions; brain imagining (MRI) study of individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) that included measures of religiosity, spirituality, transcendence, empathy, and altruism; and multiple research studies involving individuals suffering from TBI using a variety of measures of  neuropsychological function, spirituality and religiosity, and transcendence, with research conducted in the U.S. and also with colleagues in India (IIT Lucknow).

I have published numerous articles on the neuroscience of spiritual experience, and more recently on the evolution of religion. I am currently involved in a large collaborative study with colleagues from several U.S. Christian colleges investigating virtues, spirituality, and personality in college undergraduates. In addition, I am also conducting an interdisciplinary pilot study at MU assessing religion and spirituality in neurosurgery (tumor) and seizure (epilepsy) patients.

In my research I have worked 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 the sciences, in order to build a broader multidisciplinary understanding of religion and spirituality in a rapidly globalizing world.

Courses that I teach cover topics related to South Asian religions (especially Hinduism and 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
Recent Publications: 

Cohen, D. (forthcoming). Sex and the Evolution of Spirituality. In The Evolution of Religion: How Biology, Psychology, and Culture Interact, Lluis Oviedo and Jay R. Feierman, (Editors), Routledge Studies in New Critical Thinking Religion, Theology & Biblical Studies.

Johnstone, B., & Cohen, D. (in press). Neuroscience, Selflessness, and Spiritual Experience: Explaining the Science of Transcendence. Academic Press (Elsevier).

Cohen, D. (2018). Changing Brains: From Primal Horde to Nuclear Family to Religion. Religion, Brain & Behavior, DOI: 10.1080/2153599X.2018.1513863.

Johnstone, B., Wildman, W.J., Yoon, D.P., Cohen, D., Armer, J., Lanigar, S., & Wright, A. (2018). Affect as a foundational psychological process for spirituality and empathy. Mental Health, Religion, and Culture, 21(4): 370 - 379.

Johnstone, B., Hanks, R., Bhushan, B., Cohen, D., Roseberry, J., & Yoon, D.P. (2017). Selflessness as a Universal Neuropsychological Foundation of Spiritual Experiences: Validation with Christian, Hindu, and Muslim Traditions. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 20(2), 175-187.

Johnstone, B., Holliday, G., & Cohen, D. (2016). Heightened religiosity and epilepsy: evidence for religious-specific neuropsychological processes. Mental Health, Religion, and Culture, 19(7): 704-712.

Johnstone, B., Cohen, D., Konopacki, K., & Ghan, C. (2016).Selflessness as a Foundation of Spiritual Transcendence: Perspectives from the Neurosciences and Religious Studies. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 26(4): 287-303.

Johnstone, B., Bhushan, B., Hanks, R., Yoon, D., & Cohen, D. (2016). 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(2): 572–586.

Jones, A., Cohen, D., Johnstone, B., Yoon, D.P., Schopp, L., McCormack, G., & Campbell, J. (2015). Relationships between Negative Spiritual Beliefs and Health Outcomes for Individuals with Chronic Disabilities and Medical Conditions. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health 17(2): 135-152.

Johnstone, B., Cohen, D., Bryant, K.R., Glass, B., & Christ, S.E. (2015). Functional and Structural Indices of Empathy: Evidence for Self-orientation as a Neuropsychological Foundation of Empathy. Neuropsychology 29(3): 463-472.

Cohen, D. Ghost exorcism, memory, and healing, in Hinduism. (2015). 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), New York: Routledge.

Johnstone, B., Yoon, D.P., Cohen, D., Schoop, L.H., McCormack, G., Campbell, J., & Smith, M. (2012). Relationships Among Spirituality, Religious Practices, Personality Factors, and Health for Five Different Faith Traditions. Journal of Religion and Health 51(4): 1017-1041.

Johnstone, B., Bodling, A., Cohen, D., Christ, S. E., & Wegrzyn, A. (2012). Right Parietal Lobe-Related “Selflessness” as the Neuropsychological Basis of Spiritual Transcendence. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 22(4): 267-284.

Cohen, D., Yoon, D.P., & Johnstone, B. (2009). 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(2): 121–138.