A new study published by JAMA Psychiatry suggests that participating in regular spiritual and religious practice may help protect against depression. Researchers believe this may be due to a thickening of the brain cortex that occurs with regular meditation or other religious and spiritual practices.
More research is necessary; however preliminary results of MRIs performed on 103 adults at varying risk for depression have shown a correlation between a thickening of the brain cortex and the personal importance of religious and spiritual practices.
Furthermore, the regions of the brain that experienced a thickening of the cortex occurred in the same regions of the brain where people at high risk for depression usually experience thinning.
These results suggest that spiritual and religious practice may protect against the occurrence of major depression by counteracting the cortical thinning that usually occurs with the disorder. This study is the first to have investigated the correlation in this way.
Previous studies have shown a 90 percent decrease in the occurrence of major depression in adults who placed a high value on religious and spiritual practices and whose parents also suffered from depression. This suggests that maintaining a regular spiritual or religious practice (regardless of church attendance) may protect against major depression, particularly in individuals who are at a high familial risk.
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