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Religious Belief Tied to Brain Thickness

Update Date: Dec 27, 2013 10:58 AM EST

The brain is one of the most complex organs to study. Even though several studies have uncovered information on the brain, the complexities behind the organ have continued to interest researchers. In a new study, researchers from Columbia University in New York City examined the brain's thickness and its potential relationship to religious belief. The team concluded that higher levels of religious belief are tied to an increased thickness in the brain.

For this research, the team recruited 103 adult participants between the ages of 18 and 64. The team, headed by Lisa Miller, assessed the participants' level of religious belief. They asked the participants how often they went to church and how important religion was in their lives. The researchers assessed the participants two times over a time span of five years. The participants also had their brain cortical thickness measured via MRI technology.

The researchers found that people who placed a higher significance on religion and spirituality also had thicker cortices in some areas of their brain. The researchers noted that this thickness was also tied to the individual's risk of depression. People who had a higher risk of depression had a thinner cortex. The researchers did not find a relationship between going to church and thick cortices. Despite finding these links between cortical thickness and religion and depression risk, the researchers stated that they are all associations and not cause-and-effect relationships.

The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

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