adjective Referring to a life-changing religious or spiritual experience. The term is most commonly used by born-again Christians.
A survey based study evaluated 268 people aged 58 to 84 regarding their religious affiliation, spiritual practices and life-changing religious experiences, and were followed for 2 to 8 years, and changes in the hippocampus were monitored by MRI. Older adults who say they’ve been born again have greater atrophy of the hippocampus–the part of the brain critical to learning and memory–than the rest of us, the garden-variety cynics.
Per Amy Owen, lead author of the study and a research associate at Duke University Medical Center, whose results were published online at PLoS ONE. One interpretation of our finding — that members of majority religious groups seem to have less atrophy compared with minority religious groups — is that when you feel your beliefs and values are somewhat at odds with those of society as a whole, it may contribute to long-term stress that could have implications for the brain.
The study authors also suggested that life-changing religious experiences could challenge a person’s established religious beliefs, triggering stress. Other studies have led us to think that whether a new experience you consider spiritual is interpreted as comforting or stressful may depend on whether or not it fits in with your existing religious beliefs and those of the people around you, per David Hayward, research associate at Duke, who added, Especially for older adults, these unexpected new experiences may lead to doubts about long-held religious beliefs, or to disagreements with friends and family.
There you have it, folks, born-again and brain atrophy…quelle surprise.
References Duke University, news release, 19 May 2011