Religious experiences shrink part of the brain

ex-minister
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Religious experiences shrink part of the brain

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=religious-experiences-shrink-part-of-brain

I felt like I was reading the Onion. Anyone know if this study has continued? Can a belief alter the material in the brain? Even stress associated with said belief?

Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

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bobsrevenge999
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Questionable.

Questionable.


cj
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Interesting

I would not hazard a guess as to what is really going on.  The small sample size is a significant fact when evaluating the results.  Also, it is a short term, point in time study.  It would be necessary to do a long term study as to initial hippocampus size so as to remove individual variability.  It may be that these people had a relatively small hippocampus compared to the norm all their lives.

So, is religion the cause or the result?  Good question.

 

Oh, fyi - we know that the brain changes as we grow and age.  We also know that connections between neurons change - the brain prunes away ones that are no longer used and adds others your entire life.  From what I have learned, a significantly stressful event should change these connections and it may cause other changes in the brain as well.  So it is all possible, but I would be very cautious about which came first - the stressful event or the change in structures - before I assumed causation.

 

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


harleysportster
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cj wrote: Oh, fyi - we know

cj wrote:

 

Oh, fyi - we know that the brain changes as we grow and age.  We also know that connections between neurons change - the brain prunes away ones that are no longer used and adds others your entire life.  From what I have learned, a significantly stressful event should change these connections and it may cause other changes in the brain as well.  So it is all possible, but I would be very cautious about which came first - the stressful event or the change in structures - before I assumed causation.

 

Without getting TOO technical here ( remember your talking to biker trash when answering a question) what exactly does happen to the brain as we age ? The reason that I am asking this question is because I was disagreeing with a friend of mine the other day that was trying to tell me that after we hit our thirties, it is impossible to change our personalities or open our minds to new concepts.

I thoroughly disagreed with him and said that I personally thought that learning was a process that never stopped. I also don't necessarily buy into the idea that people can not change their perceptions and ideas after a certain age, but I could be wrong.

Neither he nor I had any evidence to prove either claim ( this was one of those arguments where : " I read or heard about this somewhere--" was pretty much the starting point. He wasn't making the assertion that it was an undeniable fact, but he seemed pretty sure that it was true.

I am kinda interested in that myself.

I know that I am certainly not the same way emotionally, that I was say, ten years ago and am a little more cynical and less idealistic, but I think that is more a byproduct of experience.

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


cj
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harleysportster wrote: cj

harleysportster wrote:

cj wrote:

Oh, fyi - we know that the brain changes as we grow and age.  We also know that connections between neurons change - the brain prunes away ones that are no longer used and adds others your entire life.  From what I have learned, a significantly stressful event should change these connections and it may cause other changes in the brain as well.  So it is all possible, but I would be very cautious about which came first - the stressful event or the change in structures - before I assumed causation.

Without getting TOO technical here ( remember your talking to biker trash when answering a question) what exactly does happen to the brain as we age ? The reason that I am asking this question is because I was disagreeing with a friend of mine the other day that was trying to tell me that after we hit our thirties, it is impossible to change our personalities or open our minds to new concepts.

I thoroughly disagreed with him and said that I personally thought that learning was a process that never stopped. I also don't necessarily buy into the idea that people can not change their perceptions and ideas after a certain age, but I could be wrong.

Neither he nor I had any evidence to prove either claim ( this was one of those arguments where : " I read or heard about this somewhere--" was pretty much the starting point. He wasn't making the assertion that it was an undeniable fact, but he seemed pretty sure that it was true.

I am kinda interested in that myself.

I know that I am certainly not the same way emotionally, that I was say, ten years ago and am a little more cynical and less idealistic, but I think that is more a byproduct of experience.

 

There are physical changes and personality/learning changes.  Some of the changes are related to disease processes, and I am going to skip that discussion as that is very complex.   Let's consult some one more expert than I.

 

http://www.usc.edu/hsc/info/pr/hmm/01spring/brain.html wrote:

Brain weight and volume decrease. On average, the brain loses 5-10 percent of its weight between the ages of 20 and 90.

The grooves on the surface of the brain widen, while the swellings on the surface become smaller.

So-called "neurofibriallary tangles," decayed portions of the branch-like dentricles that extend from the neurons, increase.

"Senile plaques," or abnormally hard clusters of damaged or dying neurons, form.

Along with realizing these physical changes in the brain, one of the big surprises in recent years is data that suggests cognitive decline like age-related memory loss is not due to neuron loss, as previously thought. Instead, scientists now believe changes in function as we age have more to do with complex chemical interactions in the brain that occur over time.

 

All of which has a cumulative effect.  Older people generally have less "fluid" intelligence and more "crystallized" intelligence.  That is, you have a more difficult time learning new things than younger people, but you also have a much larger store of learned knowledge and experience.  Your memory is fuller - and so learning new things requires more effort than it did when you were younger.  I have a fair amount of fluid intelligence for someone my age, but I notice that rote memorization for class is more difficult than it was when I was 30 years younger.  Perhaps I have always over relied on my excellent memory to carry me through classes and having to spend any time at all on memorization seems like a hardship.

Some of the personality changes are along the lines of becoming more of who you have always been.  I am just less likely to be nice to get along.  It isn't that I am more cynical or tactless, it is that I am making less of an effort to waste my time on being nice or tactful.  I had to bite my tongue frequently to maintain the external image of nice when I was younger.   I just don't feel like I have the time for that anymore.  Life is getting shorter and I can tell.  I read somewhere that increased cynicism and being crotchety as you get older might be associated with being more intelligent - ahem.  I can't remember where I saw it and it may be wishful thinking on my part.

One of the currently popular personality tests is the "Big Five" - The Five Factor Personality Assessment.  Openness, Agreeableness, Extraversion, Conscientiousness, and Neuroticism.  The "neuroticism" is just how emotional you get, it doesn't mean "f**ing nuts" - though that is always a possibility.  Generally, longitudinal studies show the older people get, the higher their scores on agreeableness and conscientiousness and the lower their scores on the rest.  And no, I don't think these short personality tests beloved by Human Resources and clinical psychologists are worth the paper they are written on.  Wiki has a long article on this test if you are really interested. 

Do NOT waste your money on tests or games or websites that claim to keep your brain sharp.  Yes, if you use your brain, you will age much slower intellectually.  But all you need to do is read, write, do puzzles and games, keep active, eat good food, get adequate sleep, and keep engaged with people.  Moderate drinking doesn't seem to hurt, but there is the danger of Korsakoff's Syndrome (a kind of dementia that happens after alcohol has eaten away a chunk of your brain) so keep it down.  The people who just vegetate in front of the TV are the ones who will have no mind left before they are 40, let alone 60 or 80. 

 

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


ThunderJones
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harleysportster wrote:cj

harleysportster wrote:

cj wrote:

 

Oh, fyi - we know that the brain changes as we grow and age.  We also know that connections between neurons change - the brain prunes away ones that are no longer used and adds others your entire life.  From what I have learned, a significantly stressful event should change these connections and it may cause other changes in the brain as well.  So it is all possible, but I would be very cautious about which came first - the stressful event or the change in structures - before I assumed causation.

 

Without getting TOO technical here ( remember your talking to biker trash when answering a question) what exactly does happen to the brain as we age ? The reason that I am asking this question is because I was disagreeing with a friend of mine the other day that was trying to tell me that after we hit our thirties, it is impossible to change our personalities or open our minds to new concepts.

I thoroughly disagreed with him and said that I personally thought that learning was a process that never stopped. I also don't necessarily buy into the idea that people can not change their perceptions and ideas after a certain age, but I could be wrong.

Neither he nor I had any evidence to prove either claim ( this was one of those arguments where : " I read or heard about this somewhere--" was pretty much the starting point. He wasn't making the assertion that it was an undeniable fact, but he seemed pretty sure that it was true.

I am kinda interested in that myself.

I know that I am certainly not the same way emotionally, that I was say, ten years ago and am a little more cynical and less idealistic, but I think that is more a byproduct of experience.

One thing I would like to point out, anyone's personality can be completely reset. Head injuries can, and have, wiped the slate clean (or very close) so to speak. That person than has any entirely different personality. They have no or so few memories that what makes them them, is gone.

From what I think you are saying, can someone whose personality is highly developed and set in it's ways be changed? I think so, but it seems to me that the older someone is, the strength of that personality characteristic, and the length of time they have had it, all contribute to inflexibility.

I agree with the idea that we never stop learning. That would be absurd, in my opinion.

Secularist, Atheist, Skeptic, Freethinker


peto verum
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Neurons rarely undergo

Neurons rarely undergo mitosis after adolescence but those cells live and function for our entire lives  - upwards of 100 years (I think this is fascinating myself).  Like most things that age they accumulate "yuck" and function slower or with less reliability but they don't change function.  We can learn our entire lives but, as CJ pointed out, not with the same ease or the same ways we did as children because then new neurons were being made and synaptic connections quicker to form or re-write as the case may be.  As we age existing synaptic connections are more engrained, less likely to be easily overwritten and new connection slower to form but not impossible or unlikely. 

I agree with everything previously posted and thought I'd just append this to it.

 

KORAN, n.
A book which the Mohammedans foolishly believe to have been written by divine inspiration, but which Christians know to be a wicked imposture, contradictory to the Holy Scriptures. ~ The Devil's Dictionary