We have had an astonishingly productive experience with a previously Templeton grant (#14918). We had crafted questions about religion/spirituality (R/S) onto a multimillion dollar, multigenerational longitudinal NIMH study of families at high or low risk for major depression (MDD) who had undergone clinical assessment, brain imaging and EEG. Our findings on the protective role of R/S and the brain basis of belief appeared in 11 scientific papers, attracting wide media attention and new graduate students to this work. We have received 5 yr additional NIMH support for follow-up assessments. Recruitment ends this fall and includes longitudinal clinical assessments which expand the number of participants with R/S data (771/1099 with R/S, 332repeat). New data allow us the first opportunity to probe sequential changes in spirituality, brain structure and function over time (300EEG, 97repeat; 243MRI, 94repeat).
We are requesting Templeton funds to analyze the relationship between R/S and new clinical and brain measures, which will allow us to answer questions about the stability of clinical and brain function and the effects of the emergence of new belief or lapses in belief (e.g., is greater cortical thickness in subjects with strong belief a consequence or precursor of the belief?). No data like these have been published. The combination of R/S, clinical and brain-based assessment in a multigenerational sample is unique. There is little funding for R/S outside of Templeton Foundation. We are not funded to analyze R/S; without support by Templeton, the team interested in these issues will be lost. We expect to be as productive as before and to continue to produce a set of papers of interest to a broader audience, and to continue to interest and to train young scientists who will take this work forth and see it as a legitimate area of study. Our work has also seeped into the popular press, which may eventually influence how the work is funded and the findings used.