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THICKER BRAIN SECTIONS TIED TO SPIRITUALITY

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Thicker brain sections tied to spirituality: study

By Andrew M. Seaman | Reuters - Mon, 30 Dec, 2013

 NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For people at high risk of depression because of a family history, spirituality may offer some protection for the brain, a new study hints.  

Parts of the brain's outer layer, the cortex, were thicker in high-risk study participants who said religion or spirituality was "important" to them versus those who cared less about religion.

 "Our beliefs and our moods are reflected in our brain and with new imaging techniques we can begin to see this," Myrna Weissman told Reuters Health. "The brain is an extraordinary organ. It not only controls, but is controlled by our moods."  

Weissman, who worked on the new study, is a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University and chief of the Clinical-Genetic Epidemiology department at New York State Psychiatric institute.

 While the new study suggests a link between brain thickness and religiosity or spirituality, it cannot say that thicker brain regions cause people to be religious or spiritual, Weissman and her colleagues note in JAMA Psychiatry.  

It might hint, however, that religiosity can enhance the brain's resilience against depression in a very physical way, they write.

 Previously, the researchers had found that people who said they were religious or spiritual were at lower risk of depression. They also found that people at higher risk for depression had thinning cortices, compared to those with lower depression risk. 

The cerebral cortex is the brain's outermost layer made of gray matter that forms the organ's characteristic folds. Certain areas of the cortex are important hubs of neural activity for processes such as sensory perception, language and emotion.

 For the new study, the researchers twice asked 103 adults between the ages of 18 and 54 how important religion or spirituality was to them and how often they attended religious services over a five-year period.

 In addition to being asked about spirituality, the participants' brains were imaged once to see how thick their cortices were.

 All the participants were the children or grandchildren of people who participated in an earlier study about depression. Some had a family history of depression, so they were considered to be at high risk for the disorder. Others with no history served as a comparison group.

 Overall, the researchers found that the importance of religion or spirituality to an individual - but not church attendance - was tied to having a thicker cortex. The link was strongest among those at high risk of depression. 

"What we're doing now is looking at the stability of it," Weissman said.

 Her team is taking more images of the participants' brains to see whether the size of the cortex changes with their religiosity or spirituality.

 "This is a way of replicating and validating the findings," she said. "That work is in process now."

 Dr. Dan Blazer, the J.P. Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, said the study is very interesting but is still exploratory.

 "I think this tells us it's an area to look at," Blazer, who was not involved in the new study, said. "It's an area of interest but we have to be careful."

 For example, he said there could be other areas of the brain linked to religion and spirituality. Also, spirituality may be a marker of something else, such as socioeconomic status.

 Blazer added that it's an exciting time, because researchers are actively looking at links between the brain, religion and risk of depression.

 "We've seen this field move from a time when there were virtually no studies done at all," he said.

 Weissman said the mind and body are intimately connected.

 "What this means therapeutically is hard to say," she added.

 

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1jYo6ro JAMA Psychiatry, online December 25, 2013.  

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/thicker-brain-sections-tied-spirituality-study-191414460.html

 

by on Jan. 1, 2014 at 8:12 PM
Replies (11-20):
blueforewolf
by on Jan. 1, 2014 at 11:24 PM

so people that believe in God are thickheaded?   oh come on I'm just kidding 

Looking4Truth
by on Jan. 1, 2014 at 11:49 PM

 Good question!

Quoting AdrianneHill: I wonder if the cortex could be made thicker through spiritual thought/prayer/meditation or if the amount of spiritual thought can be limited by having a thinning cortex.

 

stringtheory
by Gold Member on Jan. 1, 2014 at 11:50 PM
That makes sense.
fireangel5
by Gold Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 10:42 AM

I find the brain to be so incredibly fascinating. I wish I had chosen neuroscience when I was younger. i find this all so fascinating!!

momtoscott
by Platinum Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 11:05 AM

The most religious people in my family are the ones who are the most depressed.  Just sayin.  

aehutmacher
by Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 11:07 AM
1 mom liked this
That is the same part of the brain that enlarges in addicts. In fact, religious fulfillment closely mirrors the fulfillment experiences by addicts once they've received their "fix" - be it heroin, booze, or shopping.
aehutmacher
by Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 11:10 AM
Quoting fireangel5:

I find the brain to be so incredibly fascinating. I wish I had chosen neuroscience when I was younger. i find this all so fascinating!!



Me, too! I'm learning in all sorts of things about the way my husband and I react to each other because of neurological programs - reactions that we have little to no control over based on past experiences.
Looking4Truth
by on Jan. 2, 2014 at 4:46 PM

 Maybe they're depressed because of what this world has become.  I know it can sure depress me, especially considering that I have grandchildren who are having to grow up on this very screwed up and sick planet.  

Quoting momtoscott:

The most religious people in my family are the ones who are the most depressed.  Just sayin.  

 

momtoscott
by Platinum Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 5:18 PM

Could be, for some of the older ones.  "What is this world coming to?  I'm so depressed, and nobody today has any morals" are certainly complaints that older people have had for several thousand years at least--plenty of this kind of kvetching by the Romans and Greeks, for example.  

The depressed religious people in my family also include younger people in their teens and twenties.  

Quoting Looking4Truth:

 Maybe they're depressed because of what this world has become.  I know it can sure depress me, especially considering that I have grandchildren who are having to grow up on this very screwed up and sick planet.  

Quoting momtoscott:

The most religious people in my family are the ones who are the most depressed.  Just sayin.  

 


Looking4Truth
by on Jan. 2, 2014 at 7:48 PM

 I have two teenage grandsons and two pre-teen grandchildren.  Sadly, all of them are worried about their future and what the world is going to be like when they become adults.  One of my grandsons, (the third grandson born) is so stressed out about getting into college that he is working his tail off to make sure he gets all A+'s in school.  So far he has a perfect record.  The boy is a genius anyway, doing work at senior high school level when he's only 12, but it breaks my heart to know that all of them are fearful of what they will have, or won't have, to look forward to. 

We have all screwed up this world something terrible, and it breaks my heart.  I remember when I was a young girl and I would stay outside all day long, exploring the woods, going all over the place without fear and without my mom and dad all worried about me.  As long as I showed up for dinner, everything was fine.  It's not that way anymore in this world, and when I see what my grandchildren are having to go through every single day I realize all the horrible mistakes we've made....all us generations before the one now, meaning the young kids.  It's just sad. Even if you're a person of faith, which I am, it's still very disheartening.  Ugh.  We can improve things though if we all work together, but what are the odds of that happening.  Sigh'

Quoting momtoscott:

Could be, for some of the older ones.  "What is this world coming to?  I'm so depressed, and nobody today has any morals" are certainly complaints that older people have had for several thousand years at least--plenty of this kind of kvetching by the Romans and Greeks, for example.  

The depressed religious people in my family also include younger people in their teens and twenties.  

Quoting Looking4Truth:

 Maybe they're depressed because of what this world has become.  I know it can sure depress me, especially considering that I have grandchildren who are having to grow up on this very screwed up and sick planet.  

Quoting momtoscott:

The most religious people in my family are the ones who are the most depressed.  Just sayin.  

 


 

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