Believing in God can help block anxiety and minimize stress, according to researchers at the University of Toronto, in Ontario.

First, the details.

  • In 2 studies, participants performed a Stroop task — a test of cognitive (reasoning) control — while hooked up to electrodes that measured their brain activity.
  • Read more on the Stroop task (or effect) here.

And, the results.

  • Stronger religious zeal and greater belief in God were associated with less firing of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in response to error and with commission of fewer errors.
    • ACC plays a role in autonomic functions (regulating blood pressure and heart rate, as well as rational cognitive functions, such as reward anticipation, decision-making, empathy, and emotion).
  • The stronger their religious zeal and the more they believed in God, the less their ACC fired in response to their own errors, and the fewer errors they made.
  • These correlations remained strong even after we controlled for personality and cognitive ability.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “These results suggest that religious conviction provides a framework for understanding and acting within one’s environment, thereby acting as a buffer against anxiety and minimizing the experience of error.”

They also caution that in the absence of anxiety, when you make an error, what impetus do you have to change or improve your behavior so you don’t make the same mistakes again and again?

There nothing in these results to suggest that the participants had stepped over that line.

3/9/09 21:53 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.