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Study: Brain Interactions Differ In Religious v. Non-religious People

(credit: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)

AUBURN, AL (CBS) – How religious you are may be determined by the interactions between networks in your brain.

That’s the takeaway from a new study out of Auburn University.

The research, which was done with the National Institutes of Health, was recently published in the journal Brain Connectivity.

Gopikrishna Deshpande, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and a researcher on the study, and his colleagues used fMRI data from a previous study to determine that people with strong theory of mind, or ToM, activity were more religious.

ToM is involved in “the ability to relate between one’s personal beliefs, intents and desires with those of others,” the researchers say.

“Religious belief is a unique human attribute observed across different cultures in the world, even in those cultures which evolved independently, such as Mayans in Central America and aboriginals in Australia,” said Deshpande, who is also a researcher at Auburn’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research Center. “This has led scientists to speculate that there must be a biological basis for the evolution of religion in human societies.”

Researchers say their findings support the hypothesis that the formation of ToM in humans during evolution may have also helped spawn religion within human societies.

To read the study abstract, click here.

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