How Spirituality May Mitigate Against Stress and Related Mental Disorders: a Review and Preliminary Neurobiological Evidence
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Purpose of Review
This article aims to review recent research on the relationship between spirituality and stress and how spirituality may protect against stress-related mental disorders. Preliminary data on neural mechanisms by which spirituality may influence stress processing are also presented.
Recent neuroscientific research on stress implicates widespread corticostriatal-limbic neural circuitry that includes the salience and the default-mode networks. Acute and chronic stress represents a significant etiological factor for a range of mental disorders, and research suggests that specific brain mechanisms of acute stress in healthy states overlap with mechanisms of psychopathology. Recent studies also indicate that spirituality protects against stress and its adverse consequences. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data are presented in a proof-of-concept manner that suggest potential brain mechanisms for how spirituality may influence stress processing. Brain regions identified have been implicated in stress responsiveness, emotional and cognitive processing, and self-referential processing.
Research indicates that spirituality represents an important resilience factor for stress and its sequelae. Furthermore, preliminary fMRI data suggest a role for how spirituality may operate to attenuate neural responses to stress responsivity, regulate emotion during exposure to stress, and prevent and reduce stress-related psychopathology.
KeywordsSpirituality Stress Psychopathology Neural mechanisms Default-mode network
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Lisa Miller reports research grant from BOT Trust during the conduct of the study. Clayton McClintock, Patrick Worhunsky, Iris Balodis, Rajita Sinha, and Marc Potenza declare no conflicts of interest relevant to this manuscript.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance
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