A thickening of the cerebral cortex associated with regular spiritual or religious practices could be the reason those activities guard against depression — particularly in people who are predisposed to the disease, according to new research at the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University.

The study involved 103 adults at either high or low risk of depression, based on family history. The subjects were asked how highly they valued religion or spirituality. Brain MRIs showed thicker cortices in subjects who placed a high importance on religion or spirituality than those who did not. The relatively thicker cortex was found in precisely the same regions of the brain that had otherwise shown thinning in people at high risk for depression.

The results suggest that spirituality or religion may protect against major depression by thickening the cerebral cortex and counteracting the cortical thinning that would normally occur with major depression. The study is the first published investigation on the neuro-correlates of the protective effect of spirituality and religion against depression.

Previous studies showed a 90 percent decrease in major depression in adults who said they highly valued spirituality or religiosity and whose parents suffered from the disease. While regular attendance at church was not necessary, a strong personal importance placed on spirituality or religion was most protective against major depression in people who were at high familial risk.

JAMA Psychiatry, ScienceDaily

Dr. Keith & Laurie Nemec’s Comments on Religion Protects Against Depression:

What you do to the mind you do to the body and what you do to the body you do to the mind. This saying can be extended because of this research to say “what you do in the Spirit you do to the mind and body”. This is a powerful study that shows when you are God-minded not only do you have less depression but you have a physical outcome of the cortex or outer layer of the brain grows. What does this mean? In patients with depression and dementia the outer cortex of the brain gets smaller. In a sense the brain shrinks or starts to dissolve. What this study has proven is that when our eyes are fix on Him who creates us and sustains us, our mental health can heal AND so can our physical health as evidenced by the brain growing back. Always remember and never forget that you are a spiritual being created by God not a physical being created by man. You do have the power to change your mental/emotional condition and you also have the power to heal your body. How is this done? It is done only by balancing your spirit, your mind and your body by addressing them all as one. You cannot just take care of your spirit and abuse your body with improper diet and lifestyle. You also cannot take of your body the best possible and disregard the truth that you are a spiritual being that is eternal. Only when you balance all three, your spirit, your soul (mind, will and emotions) and your body will you be all that God created you to be. This is what we have been teaching at Total Health Institute for the last 30 years. This is why we have had so many people transform their health and their life. Foundational in this is the teaching of Truth. Our most powerful series to balance these are:

1. Sally & George

2. The Seven Basic Steps to Total Health

3. How to Know You Are Healed

The research is now beginning to prove what we have known all along- the Spirit can and does bring health and life to the mind and body when we are God-focused instead of self-focused.