Brain Responds to Religion Like Drugs, and Other News

Hands clasped in prayer and resting on bookThoughts of religion activate brain regions associated with reward and attention, according to a study published in the journal Social Neuroscience. This suggests the brain’s response to religion is similar to its response to love, music, and drugs.

To explore how religion stimulates the brain, researchers recruited 19 devout young adult Mormons. Researchers scanned their brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines while the participants completed a range of religious tasks, such as reading scripture and praying. Participants reported on the intensity of their spiritual experience during the scans.

When participants said they felt more intense religious feelings, the nucleus accumbens was activated. This brain region is linked to reward. Religious feelings also stimulated the frontal attentional—an area of the brain associated with attention—and the ventromedial prefrontal cortical loci—an area linked to moral reasoning.

The study is the latest among several studies that attempt to understand how the brain processes and understands religion and spiritual experiences. Because the researchers only studied Mormons, further research is necessary to confirm the findings for those who practice other religions and spiritual faiths.

No Association Between Mother Flu in Pregnancy, Increased Child Autism Risk

A study that looked at more than 196,000 children found no link between having the flu during pregnancy and the risk of a child later developing autism. Though there was a suggestion of an increased autism risk if a mother received a flu vaccine early in pregnancy, the researchers found any association between the two factors was insignificant. The researchers say additional research is needed to further evaluate any potential risk.

Legislation to Improve Health Care for Millions Sails Through House Vote

The 21st Century Cures Act passed the United States House of Representatives 392-26 this week. The bill funds biomedical research, shortens drug approval timetables, and encourages federal agencies to fund only mental health programs supported by sound research. It also aims to make mental health care more of a priority by strengthening parity for mental and physical health care and urging states to offer earlier intervention for psychosis. The Senate will vote on this measure next week.

Too Many Mental Health Apps Put Style Over Substance

Mental health apps that promise to improve psychological well-being are increasingly popular. Many users share a range of sensitive medical and personal data with these apps, yet there is little scientific evidence that these programs improve mental health. A review of more than 300 of these apps found many boasted sleek design, but few followed a science-backed treatment method.

A mother and a daughter gardening togetherGirls May Wait Longer for Sex When They’re Close to Their Mothers

A survey of nearly 3,000 adolescent boys and girls suggests girls who are close to their mothers may delay having sex for the first time. Participants were 12 at the beginning of the study, which followed them until they were 16. Girls who reported close relationships with their mothers were 44% less likely to report having sex during the study period.

Behavioral Activation: The Depression Therapy You’ve Likely Never Heard Of

Therapists often turn to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—which changes behavior by correcting negative thought patterns—to treat depression. New research suggests a protocol that targets behavior could be just as effective. A July study found a therapy known as behavioral activation (BA) produced results similar to CBT. BA requires less training and skill to administer, suggesting it could be a cheaper, more accessible alternative to CBT.

With Shifts in National Mood Come Shifts in Words We Use, Study Suggests

A new study that analyzed archives dating back two centuries points to a bias in favor of “positive” words. This bias, however, can shift during times of national fear and frustration. During economic downturns and wars, “negative” words such as “hatred,” “grief,” and “suffer” become more prevalent.

Depression in Young People Affects the Stomach, Anxiety the Skin

A study of nearly 6,500 teenagers suggests mental health diagnoses often produce predictable changes in physical health. Adolescents with anxiety were more likely to develop skin conditions. Those with depression were more vulnerable to arthritis and gastrointestinal illnesses.

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  • Leo


    December 3rd, 2016 at 8:46 AM

    I can’t say that my faith has ever quite made me feel like I have when I have smoked pot, but it does give me comfort knowing that at least for me there is a higher power in control/

  • dorian


    December 5th, 2016 at 10:38 AM

    Yeah those apps that are eye catching are not always necessarily the ones that are going to be the most helpful.

  • judd


    December 5th, 2016 at 12:40 PM

    My daughter was having terrible stomach problems, like so much that her pediatrician even thought that it could be her gall bladder. When all of those tests came back normal then we tried other tests like for celiac and gluten intolerance. Some of that came back with some sensitivity issues but when it boiled down to it she was very anxious about some school situations and it was very much affecting her physical health. That was not anything that I had ever thought could happen and I just wish that for her sake we had learned about that connection sooner.

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