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An alternative hypothesis...

Posted by kausikdatta on 01 Jun 2011 at 12:06 GMT

Thanks to Owen et al. for this very interesting study. As and when the fMRI techniques mature, we should get to see more of such studies. I had a quick question about the hypothesis tested in the current study: Is it possible to analyze the same observations from a diametrically opposite perspective?

What I mean is this: Is it possible that -
(a) Hippocampal atrophy (or some non-pathognomonic reduction in volume) is age related?
(b) Given that all the subjects were 58+ years in age, the median size of hippocampus measured in non-believers is the right size (baseline) for that age or age-range?
(c) Introduction to religion at an early age, moderate religious feelings, participation in religious rituals and so forth may cause a surge of emotions - especially conflicting emotions and sentiments regarding religion, with increased exposure to different worldviews - which can lead to hippocampal hypertrophy in the believer group?
(d) Those who have experienced LCREs or found religion late ("born-again") are so firmly adherent to their belief systems, that they no longer experience any doubt, uncertainty or a lack of conviction - and therefore, are not subject to strong emotional upheavals in a chronic manner; as a consequence, their hippocampal volume returns to the baseline?

Would this be a valid alternative hypothesis?

No competing interests declared.