Today’s Solutions: December 04, 2021

Using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to create detailed anatomical images of the brain, the scientists compared people based on whether they reported a low, moderate or high importance of religion or spirituality in their lives. They found that the brains of people for whom religion or spirituality was highly important showed thickening—associated with the presence of more and/or healthier brain cells—in some parts of the brain, including in one area where a thinner volume was previously linked to increased risk of depression.

By comparing people considered to be at high risk of depression due to a positive family history with people considered to be at low risk, they found that these effects of religion/spirituality on the relative thickness of brain areas was more pronounced in people who were at high risk, suggesting that placing importance on these belief systems might confer a type of neuro-protection against depressive disorders.

Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Psychiatry, the authors also stressed that church attendance was not a factor affecting brain thickness or likelihood of developing depression, only the personal importance that a person attributed to their belief system.

(Source: JAMA Psychiatry, 2013; 1. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.3067.)

Photo: Flickr/ gwp57


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