Photo: James Shepard/Flickr
It turns out there is a relationship between the brain and religion. Researchers at Duke University monitored changes in the hippocampus of 268 adults of specific religious groups over the course of eight years.
The hippocampus is a region of the brain that plays an important role in emotion as well as memory formation and storage. Atrophy, or shrinking of the hippocampus has been linked to depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and chronic stress.
According to the study from 2011, people who said they experienced a life-changing experience showed greater hippocampal atrophy. Born-again Protestants, Catholics and people who had no religious affiliation also had more hippocampal shrinkage than non born-again Protestants.
Researchers hypothesized that changes in brain size could be linked to long-term stress associated with being a member of a minority religious group.
To be clear, the study does not suggest that born-again individuals are less intelligent than other groups; human IQ is not directly correlated to brain size. As one blogger points out, “The two simply do not correlate neatly in humans, or even in animals. If they did, then cows, with their larger brains, would be more resourceful, agile, and socially complex than cats – and the countryside would be teeming with diabolical bovine predators rather than dimwitted future-hamburgers.”
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