skip to main content

Title: Parental religiosity is associated with changes in youth functional network organization and cognitive performance in early adolescence

Parental religious beliefs and practices (religiosity) may have profound effects on youth, especially in neurodevelopmentally complex periods such as adolescence. In n = 5566 children (median age = 120.0 months; 52.1% females; 71.2% with religious affiliation) from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, relationships between parental religiosity and non-religious beliefs on family values (data on youth beliefs were not available), topological properties of youth resting-state brain networks, and executive function, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility were investigated. Lower caregiver education and family income were associated with stronger parental beliefs (p < 0.01). Strength of both belief types was correlated with lower efficiency, community structure, and robustness of frontoparietal control, temporoparietal, and dorsal attention networks (p < 0.05), and lower Matrix Reasoning scores. Stronger religious beliefs were negatively associated (directly and indirectly) with multiscale properties of salience and default-mode networks, and lower Flanker and Dimensional Card Sort scores, but positively associated with properties of the precuneus. Overall, these effects were small (Cohen’s d ~ 0.2 to ~ 0.4). Overlapping neuromodulatory and cognitive effects of parental beliefs suggest that early adolescents may perceive religious beliefs partly as context-independent rules on expected behavior. However, religious beliefs may also differentially affect cognitive flexibility, attention, and inhibitory control and their neural substrates.

; ; ;
Award ID(s):
2116707 1940096 1658414 1649865
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Scientific Reports
Nature Publishing Group
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Sleep is critical for cognitive health, especially during complex developmental periods such as adolescence. However, its effects on maturating brain networks that support cognitive function are only partially understood. We investigated the impact of shorter duration and reduced quality sleep, common stressors during development, on functional network properties in early adolescence—a period of significant neural maturation, using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging from 5566 children (median age = 120.0 months; 52.1% females) in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development cohort. Decreased sleep duration, increased sleep latency, frequent waking up at night, and sleep-disordered breathing symptoms were associated with lower topological efficiency, flexibility, and robustness of visual, sensorimotor, attention, fronto-parietal control, default-mode and/or limbic networks, and with aberrant changes in the thalamus, basal ganglia, hippocampus, and cerebellum (P < 0.05). These widespread effects, many of which were body mass index-independent, suggest that unhealthy sleep in early adolescence may impair neural information processing and integration across incompletely developed networks, potentially leading to deficits in their cognitive correlates, including attention, reward, emotion processing and regulation, memory, and executive control. Shorter sleep duration, frequent snoring, difficulty waking up, and daytime sleepiness had additional detrimental network effects in nonwhite participants, indicating racial disparities in the influence of sleep metrics.
  2. Abstract

    Macrostructural characteristics, such as cost of living and state-level anti-poverty programs relate to the magnitude of socioeconomic disparities in brain development and mental health. In this study we leveraged data from the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) study from 10,633 9-11 year old youth (5115 female) across 17 states. Lower income was associated with smaller hippocampal volume and higher internalizing psychopathology. These associations were stronger in states with higher cost of living. However, in high cost of living states that provide more generous cash benefits for low-income families, socioeconomic disparities in hippocampal volume were reduced by 34%, such that the association of family income with hippocampal volume resembled that in the lowest cost of living states. We observed similar patterns for internalizing psychopathology. State-level anti-poverty programs and cost of living may be confounded with other factors related to neurodevelopment and mental health. However, the patterns were robust to controls for numerous state-level social, economic, and political characteristics. These findings suggest that state-level macrostructural characteristics, including the generosity of anti-poverty policies, are potentially relevant for addressing the relationship of low income with brain development and mental health.

  3. Abstract

    Convergent research identifies a general factor (“P factor”) that confers transdiagnostic risk for psychopathology. Large-scale networks are key organizational units of the human brain. However, studies of altered network connectivity patterns associated with the P factor are limited, especially in early adolescence when most mental disorders are first emerging. We studied 11,875 9- and 10-year olds from the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, of whom 6593 had high-quality resting-state scans. Network contingency analysis was used to identify altered interconnections associated with the P factor among 16 large-scale networks. These connectivity changes were then further characterized with quadrant analysis that quantified the directionality of P factor effects in relation to neurotypical patterns of positive versus negative connectivity across connections. The results showed that the P factor was associated with altered connectivity across 28 network cells (i.e., sets of connections linking pairs of networks);pPERMUTATIONvalues < 0.05 FDR-corrected for multiple comparisons. Higher P factor scores were associated with hypoconnectivity within default network and hyperconnectivity between default network and multiple control networks. Among connections within these 28 significant cells, the P factor was predominantly associated with “attenuating” effects (67%;pPERMUTATION < 0.0002), i.e., reduced connectivity at neurotypically positive connections and increased connectivity at neurotypically negative connections.more »These results demonstrate that the general factor of psychopathology produces attenuating changes across multiple networks including default network, involved in spontaneous responses, and control networks involved in cognitive control. Moreover, they clarify mechanisms of transdiagnostic risk for psychopathology and invite further research into developmental causes of distributed attenuated connectivity.

    « less
  4. Nehm, Ross (Ed.)
    Although many scientists agree that evolution does not make claims about God/god(s), students might assume that evolution is atheistic, and this may lead to lower evolution acceptance. In study 1, we surveyed 1081 college biology students at one university about their religiosity and evolution acceptance and asked what religious ideas someone would have to reject if that person were to accept evolution. Approximately half of students wrote that a person cannot believe in God/religion and accept evolution, indicating that these students may have atheistic perceptions of evolution. Religiosity was not related to whether a student wrote that evolution is atheistic, but writing that evolution is atheistic was associated with lower evolution acceptance among the more religious students. In study 2, we collected data from 1898 students in eight states in the United States using a closed-ended survey. We found that 56.5% of students perceived that evolution is atheistic even when they were given the option to choose an agnostic perception of evolution. Further, among the most religious students, those who thought evolution is atheistic were less accepting of evolution, less comfortable learning evolution, and perceived greater conflict between their personal religious beliefs and evolution than those who thought evolution ismore »agnostic.« less
  5. Abstract Adolescence is a period of profound but incompletely understood changes in the brain’s neural circuitry (the connectome), which is vulnerable to risk factors such as unhealthy weight, but may be protected by positive factors such as regular physical activity. In 5955 children (median age = 120 months; 50.86% females) from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) cohort, we investigated direct and indirect (through impact on body mass index [BMI]) effects of physical activity on resting-state networks, the backbone of the functional connectome that ubiquitously affects cognitive function. We estimated significant positive effects of regular physical activity on network connectivity, efficiency, robustness and stability (P ≤ 0.01), and on local topologies of attention, somatomotor, frontoparietal, limbic, and default-mode networks (P < 0.05), which support extensive processes, from memory and executive control to emotional processing. In contrast, we estimated widespread negative BMI effects in the same network properties and brain regions (P < 0.05). Additional mediation analyses suggested that physical activity could also modulate network topologies leading to better control of food intake, appetite and satiety, and ultimately lower BMI. Thus, regular physical activity may have extensive positive effects on the development of the functional connectome, and may be critical for improving the detrimental effects of unhealthy weight on cognitivemore »health.« less