Could brain thickness point to stronger religious belief?

December 26, 2013
Could brain thickness point to stronger religious belief?
'Cortical thickness' increased among people who place significance on religion, study found.

(HealthDay News) —Higher levels of self-professed spiritual belief appear to be reflected in increased thickness of a key brain area, a new study finds.

Researchers at Columbia University in New York City found that the outer layer of the , known as the cortex, is thicker in some areas among people who place a lot of significance on religion.

The study involved 103 adults between the ages of 18 and 54 who were the children and grandchildren of both depressed study participants and those who were not depressed.

A team led by Lisa Miller analyzed how often the participants went to church and the level of importance they placed on religion. This assessment was made twice over the course of five years. Using MRI technology, the cortical thickness of the participants' brains was also measured once.

The study, published Dec. 25 in JAMA Psychiatry, revealed the significance of religion or spirituality was linked with thicker cortices in certain . The effect was stronger among those at high for depression than those at lower risk. This was particularly evident in a part of the brain where a thinner cortex may be linked with a familial risk for developing depression, the researchers noted.

Although the importance of religion was tied with thicker cortices in some parts of the brain, the study showed the frequency of church attendance did not have the same association. This was true regardless of the participants' genetic risk for depression.

The findings only show an association between and religious belief "and therefore do not prove a causal association," the study authors stressed.

Explore further: Personal reflection triggers increased brain activity during depressive episodes

More information: The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides more information on the human brain.

Related Stories

Personal reflection triggers increased brain activity during depressive episodes

November 6, 2013
Research by the University of Liverpool has found that people experiencing depressive episodes display increased brain activity when they think about themselves.

Children with brain injuries nearly twice as likely to suffer from depression

October 25, 2013
In a study presented Oct. 25 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, researchers found that compared to other children, 15 percent of those with brain injuries or concussions were ...

Distinct 'God spot' in the brain does not exist

April 19, 2012
Scientists have speculated that the human brain features a "God spot," one distinct area of the brain responsible for spirituality. Now, University of Missouri researchers have completed research that indicates spirituality ...

Faith and healing: Religious coping improves outcomes for people being treated for severe psychiatric illness

December 4, 2013
Religious coping can significantly improve treatment outcomes for individuals receiving short-term treatment for psychiatric illness, according to Harvard Medical School researchers at McLean Hospital. The finding, published ...

Researchers find new way to examine major depressive disorder in children

May 10, 2011
A landmark study by scientists at Wayne State University published in the May 6, 2011, issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, the most prestigious journal in the field, has revealed a new way to distinguish children with ...

Recommended for you

Study listens in on speech development in early childhood

January 15, 2018
If you've ever listened in on two toddlers at play, you might have wondered how much of their babbling might get lost in translation. A new study from the University of Toronto provides surprising insights into how much children ...

Study suggests people dislike you more for humblebragging than for regular boasting

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers from Harvard University and UNC-Chapel Hill has conducted a study regarding humblebragging—in which a person boasts about an achievement but tries to make it sound less boastful by minimizing it—and ...

Can writing your 'to-do's' help you to doze? Study suggests jotting down tasks can speed the trip to dreamland

January 11, 2018
Writing a "to-do" list at bedtime may aid in falling asleep, according to a Baylor University study. Research compared sleep patterns of participants who took five minutes to write down upcoming duties versus participants ...

Study identifies brain circuit controlling social behavior

January 11, 2018
A new study by researchers at Roche in Basel, Switzerland has identified a key brain region of the neural circuit that controls social behavior. Increasing the activity of this region, called the habenula, led to social problems ...

Tamper-resistant oxycodone tablets have no impact on overall opioid use

January 11, 2018
The introduction of tamper-resistant opioid tablets does not have an effect on rates of opioid use or harms at a population level, according to a new study led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW ...

Suicides by drugs in U.S. are undercounted, new study suggests

January 11, 2018
The rate of suicides by drug intoxication in the United States may be vastly underreported and misclassified, according to a new study co-written by Mark Kaplan, professor of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.