Regular meditation, as well as other spiritual or religious practices, has been shown to help shield against depression. New research from Columbia University’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute suggests that these activities may have the effect of thickening the brain’s cortex.
A study involving 103 adults, some of whom had a family history that put them at risk of depression, found that participants who placed a high value on religion or spirituality had thicker cortices as seen on brain MRIs. The researchers noted that the thickened brain regions seen in this study are the same cortical areas shown to thin in earlier studies of people at high risk of depression.
The team wrote that while more study is needed, these new results suggest that spirituality or religion may protect against major depression by thickening the brain cortex and counteracting the cortical thinning that normally occurs with major depression. This change was particularly evident in study participants predisposed to depression because of a family history, the researchers reported.
Earlier studies by this same team showed a 90 percent risk reduction in major depression in adults who said they highly valued spirituality or religiosity and whose parents suffered from the disease.