Spirituality May Provide Brain Depression Protection [Study]

Robert Jonathan

People who are spiritual or religious may have a thicker outer layer of their brain, and therefore, may be less prone to depression.

That was the general conclusion of a new study recently published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal. The findings were a follow-up to a previous study by the same researchers who concluded that those claiming to be religious or spiritual were at a lower risk for suffering from depression.

The new study consisted of 103 adults with a family history of depression who answered questions about the importance of religion or spirituality in their lives, and who cataloged how often they went to religious services for five years. As part of the inquiry, researchers took an MRI of each participant's brain.

The results apparently revealed that the brain cortex was thicker for those who said that religion or spirituality was important to them versus those who did not prioritize religion in their lives, but not necessarily for church attendance.

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

The study concluded that...

"A thicker cortex associated with a high importance of religion or spirituality may confer resilience to the development of depressive illness in individuals at high familial risk for major depression, possibly by expanding a cortical reserve that counters to some extent the vulnerability that cortical thinning poses for developing familial depressive illness."

A separate study by Emory University researchers recently concluded that reading a page-turning novel conferred positive brain benefits. Researchers apparently determined, "A good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory." In this instance, 21 study subjects who read the 2003 thriller Pompeii by Robert Harris had their brains scanned five days later, which revealed changes in their left temporal cortex.

Given the possibility of warding off depression and/or keeping the brain healthy, do any of your New Year's resolutions include bringing more spirituality (as you define it) into your life or reading more fiction?

[image credit: neurowiki2013]