A traumatic brain injury could end up making people more extreme in their religious beliefs, according to new research. Scientists from Northwestern University in Illinois claim they have discovered a connection between head trauma and a person’s unwillingness to accept new ideas – a link, researchers say, makes some people more zealous about their faith. Writing in the journal ‘Neuropsychologia’, the study’s lead neurologist, Jordan Grafman, says that religious “flexibility” is dependent on the health of the area of the brain governing “openness.”

After consulting a registry of around 2,000 US soldiers who had suffered head trauma during the Vietnam War, Grafman conducted tests – including a ‘religious fundamentalism scale’ – on 119 veterans who had experienced penetrating brain injuries. Grafman’s team then used CT scans to identify lesions on the area of participants’ brains known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. This area is thought to play a cognitive role in critical thinking, problem-solving, planning, and spiritual experiences. FULL REPORT