A new study has found that spiritual or religious practice may guard against depression, particularly in people who are predisposed to the disease, by thickening the brain cortex.
The study by Lisa Miller, professor and director of Clinical Psychology and director of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University, involved 103 adults at either high or low risk of depression, based on family history.
The subjects were asked how highly they valued religion or spirituality. Brain MRIs showed thicker cortices in subjects who placed a high importance on religion or spirituality than those who did not.
The relatively thicker cortex was found in precisely the same regions of the brain that had otherwise shown thinning in people at high risk for depression.
The results suggested that spirituality or religion may protect against major depression by thickening the brain cortex and counteracting the cortical thinning that would normally occur with major depression.
The study is published by journal JAMA Psychiatry