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Being 'Born-Again' Linked to More Brain Atrophy: Study


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how about someone who was "born-again" but haaaaates the term and won't use it, because of the negative connotations?

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The point that being in a religious minority might put a great deal of stress on you and might therefore result in consequences for the brain sounds at least plausible, if far-fetched. But that has nothing to with being born-again or not or life-changing religious experiences. You can experience a conversion and still be in a mainstream religion.

For example: A good friend of mine decided to become a Catholic priest after such an incident.

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  • 3 months later...

This is an article from philly dot com (with a Duke University news release as its source). I've posted it in full, but basically it's about a study that found that people who were 'born again' later in life show greater atrophy in the area of the brain that is responsible for learning and remembering.

I know most of our born again fundies don't fall into the correct age range mentioned below, but that doesn't mean that it couldn't theoretically apply to people a decade or two younger. I figure that since it relates to conversion and we have a hell of a lot of born-again fundies we discuss, I thought I'd post it.

"Older adults who say they've had a life-changing religious experience are more likely to have a greater decrease in size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain critical to learning and memory, new research finds.

According to the study, people who said they were a "born-again" Protestant or Catholic, or conversely, those who had no religious affiliation, had more hippocampal shrinkage (or "atrophy") compared to people who identified themselves as Protestants, but not born-again.

The study is published online in PLoS ONE.

As people age, a certain amount of brain atrophy is expected. Shrinkage of the hippocampus is also associated with depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

In the study, researchers asked 268 people aged 58 to 84 about their religious affiliation, spiritual practices and life-changing religious experiences. Over the course of two to eight years, changes to the hippocampus were monitored using MRI scans.

The researchers suggested that stress over holding religious beliefs that fall outside of the mainstream may help explain the findings.

"One interpretation of our finding -- that members of majority religious groups seem to have less atrophy compared with minority religious groups -- is that when you feel your beliefs and values are somewhat at odds with those of society as a whole, it may contribute to long-term stress that could have implications for the brain," Amy Owen, lead author of the study and a research associate at Duke University Medical Center, said in a Duke news release.

The study authors also suggested that life-changing religious experiences could challenge a person's established religious beliefs, triggering stress.

"Other studies have led us to think that whether a new experience you consider spiritual is interpreted as comforting or stressful may depend on whether or not it fits in with your existing religious beliefs and those of the people around you," David Hayward, research associate at Duke University Medical Center, added. "Especially for older adults, these unexpected new experiences may lead to doubts about long-held religious beliefs, or to disagreements with friends and family."

The researchers noted other factors related to hippocampal atrophy, such as age, depression or brain size, as well as other religious factors such as prayer or meditation, could not explain the study's findings.


I think it's interesting that the majority of fundies we snark on are born-again, and a lot of them seem pretty idiotic so perhaps there is some merit to this. Then again, the study doesn't mention baptists/quiverfull/home churchers, it says people with no religious beliefs at all have the same signs of atrophy, and the fundy movement doesn't seem to have many people in the age range studied. Still, I felt it was worth a look.

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I wish they would understand that memorizing Bible verses isn't the same thing as thinking or analyzing an argument.

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