I thought you might find it an interesting read: There is evidence that meditation (or meditative prayer such as the Rosary) could work against depression, particularly for those predisposed to it.
It is worth pointing out to the materialist who tries to reduce religious experience to brain activation that we should expect our bodies’ activity to correspond to that of our souls, since we are body-spirit hybrids, not “spirits inside of earthly shells” like some Protestants believe.
Unfortunately, “meditation” is a broad term, and much “meditation” practiced by “spiritual” people is Eastern, rather than Christian, in origin. I’d like to see a replication in people who make specific use of the Rosary and related devotions - otherwise, there’s too much heterogeneity and “noise” from other confounders. (Or, at worst, the effect is simply the result of sustained and focused attention, cf. Jeffrey Schwartz.)
That is, of course, the most noble explanation. But I’ve always been a little skeptical of the field of “neurotheology”, simply because it’s too much conjecture, too little neuroscience and even less theology.
A sacramental system in which this world is redeemed need not get hung up on the idea that our souls and our bodies represent two different independant systems.
Dualism separates what God has already joined together. Since as Christians we already believe in the redemption and the resurrection of the body, scientific research that demonstrates the role of the brain and physiological function play in every aspect of our choice and our excersise of will and belief are simply not contrary to what we already believe.
When it comes down to a question of dividing the body and the spirit, rendering unto God that which belongs to him, and to Ceasar that which belongs to him, very little if any of the world as we experience it belongs to Ceasar actually.
I think for even Catholics the idea that we are not saved independant of our bodies, but that our salvation is brought about through our bodies is not always an easy one to fully grasp either.
So if our consciousness and all that we consider to be “me” is integrally related to our neural functioning, that is not a testimony against the faith, but a testimony for the faith.
Our faith simply has not been reduced, since our faith was not based in a mind-body dualism in the first place.
How true is it though?
That is to say, in a risk-benefit analysis, is there a fair comparison between well-documented cases versus the statistical 90% decrease in depression that the OP articles reports?
Previous studies by Miller and the team published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (2012) showed a 90 percent decrease in major depression in adults who said they highly valued spirituality or religiosity and whose parents suffered from the disease. While regular attendance at church was not necessary, a strong personal importance placed on spirituality or religion was most protective against major depression in people who were at high familial risk.