Researchers at Duke University Medical Center say they have discovered a correlation between atrophy of a part of the brain used in learning and memory (the hippocampus) in older adults and their religious perspectives. The researchers say that in older adults non-born again Protestants have less such atrophy than born again Protestants, Catholics and those not religiously affiliated.
Per the first article:
"The researchers found that Protestants who did not identify themselves as born-again had less atrophy in the hippocampus region than did born-again Protestants, Catholics, or those having no religious affiliation. Study participants who reported having had a religious experience that changed their life were also found to have more atrophy in the hippocampus than those who did not."
The findings have been published in the journal, PLoS ONE.
"Religious factors may influence changes in the brain" is a stupid title that has nothing to do with the explanation and the conclusion of the article.
This could be a title for the article:
"Religious minority status, like other minority statuses, is a source of stress".
"Religious minority status, like other minority statuses, leads to stress that also leads to a subsequent shrinkage of hippocampus".
It only makes sense to me.
The old saw has been shown to be true, time and time again: use it or lose it. And when you're born again, you don't have to do any thinking anymore because the thinking has already been done for you. So if you don't use your brain, it shouldn't surprise that it will shrink.
I have to assume the sample size was large enough so that prior conditions except for religious perspectives evened out in all categories.
Moreover, per the first article:
Authors Amy Owen, Ph.D., and David Hayward, Ph.D., research associates at Duke University Medical Center, said these findings were not explained by other factors related to hippocampal atrophy, such as age, education, social support from friends and family, being depressed, or brain size. In addition, other religious factors (such as prayer, meditation, or Bible study) did not predict changes in the volume of the hippocampus in this study.
Actual atrophy was measured. Per the first article:
Changes in the volume of their hippocampus were then tracked, using MRI scans, over a period of 2-8 years.