Sunday, January 23, 2022

Faith vs. despair …

The Believer’s Brain. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Miller begins her story in the lab. That’s where she and her co-workers were examining data sets that they had compiled from brain-imaging tests. These compared self-described religious and spiritual folk with determined skeptics and nonbelievers. To her colleagues’ surprise, it turned out that faith strongly correlated with indicators of mental health. That finding was reinforced when the Columbia researchers looked at electroencephalograms (EEGs). These revealed that believers had higher levels of high-amplitude alpha waves. Miller knew that these brain signals tend to increase when patients are placed on SSRIs and that they fade out when patients are taken off the drugs. So this was an intriguing finding. The research unit then discovered that those recovering from depression who are believers had particularly elevated levels of alpha waves compared with those of recovering nonbelievers. This suggests that the original finding was not just a sign of correlation. It implies causation: that faith can alleviate despair.

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