Monday, April 11, 2011

Politics and the Brain

Have you ever wondered how the brains of conservative politicians differ from the brains of those who are more liberal? The recent feuding between a Democratic President and a Republican-controlled House might trigger such a though. Turns out that a recent study has uncovered the proverbial tip of an iceberg.

Studies at the University College London have linked personality traits with specific brain structures (the study reportedly having been commissioned by Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth). Using data from MRI scans, researchers found that self-described liberals had a larger anterior cingulate cortex, while individuals who described themselves as conservatives were more likely to have larger amygdalae. Based on what is known about the functions of those two brain regions, the structural differences are consistent with reports showing a greater ability of liberals to cope with conflicting information and a greater ability of conservatives to recognize a threat.

Of course this raises a whole host of questions. For example, are humans born with a predisposition to gravitate toward specific political beliefs or does the brain adjust itself to life experiences? Do structures of the brain alter as its owner embraces specific attitudes or do existing brain structures somehow mediate the formation of specific political attitudes? I love it!

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