By thickening brain cortex, spirituality lowers depression risk
Participating in certain spiritual or religious practices may work to lower risk of depression by thickening a certain part of the brain, according to a new study.
To examine the connection between spiritual practices and depression, scientists from the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University recruited 103 adults who either had high or low risk of depression, based on family history. Subjects were asked how much they valued either religion or spirituality. Researchers then conducted MRIs on the participants’ brains.
The findings, published online by JAMA Psychiatry, showed that the people who reported having a high value for religion or spirituality had a thicker brain cortex than people who said they didn’t value either one. The same brain cortex has been found to be relatively thin in people with high risk of depression.
Researchers said the study suggests that there are protective benefits against depression, especially in people already at high risk. Since the study is the first of its kind to investigate the neurological benefits of spirituality and religion, more research is necessary to better understand the correlation, researchers said.