Study Says non-Born Again Protestants Have Less Brain Shrinkage than Born Again People, Catholics and non-Affiliated People

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.

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I think the study is valid but that the data can easily be misinterpreted and has been by the researchers. That is, I think the non-affiliated category contains the factor of being significantly constituted by people who are amoral or immoral rather than consisting overwhelmingly of altruistic and scientifically minded freethinkers. Accordingly, I think the category is skewed toward selfishness rather than being fully open to new ideas to the benefit of mankind. As such, I think its average member is less interested in using the hippocampus than his or her counterpart in the non-born again Protestant category resulting in less activity in it and more hippocampus atrophy by comparison. The other categories involve too much faith for hippocampus activity in excess of such activity in the non-born again Protestant category. I believe that if a category of bona fide Secular Humanists had been included in the study it would have shown the least atrophy of the 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. 

Atrophy only makes sense here if the hippocampus was measured prior to being elderly. Could it not be that there was a prior existing condition?

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.




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