Aug 082011

Political allegiances linked to brain structure, study finds

Experiment reveals ‘strong correlation’ between thickness in two brain regions, the amygdala and the anterior cingulate, and political viewpoint

An experiment has found differences between the brains of progressives and conservatives.

Head scans of students at University College London, conducted by neuroscientist Geraint Rees, showed a “strong correlation” between thickness in two regions, the amygdala and the anterior cingulate, and political viewpoint.

Rees said he was “very surprised” by the finding because the experiment was a lighthearted item commissioned by Colin Firth for his guest-editing slot on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The actor has said he no longer supports the Lib Dems, and joked about Nick Clegg: “I think we should have him scanned.”


Different article, same subject )

Political views are reflected in your brain structure

People who vote Tory are naturally more anxious than those with more liberal views, a new study that involved the Oscar winning actor Colin Firth has discovered.

Scientists have found that political orientation is connected to brain structure and those with right wing views have larger areas concerned with fear and anxiety than those of a more left wing persuasion.

The findings by University College London could explain why conservatives and liberals rarely see eye to eye – and often have irreconcilable views on subjects.

The research by University College London was originally commission by Firth when he was a guest editor on the Radio 4 Today programme last December.

It involved looking at the brain make up of the Labour MP Stephen Pound and Alan Duncan, the Conservative Minister of State for International Development using a scanner.

They also questioned a further 90 students, who had already been scanned for other studies, about their political views

Scientists found that those with conservative views have brains with larger amygdalas, almond-shaped areas in the centre of the brain associated with anxiety and emotions.

On the other hand, they have a smaller anterior cingulate, an area at the front of the brain associated with courage and looking on the bright side of life.

“Previously, some psychological traits were known to be predictive of an individuals’s political orientation, ” said Dr Ryota Kanai, lead author.

“Our study now links such personality traits with specific brain structure.”

The study appeared to back up many prior psychological reports showing that conservatives are more sensitive to threat and anxiety in the face of uncertainty, while liberals tend to be more open to new experiences.

Dr Kanai said that the research could eventually explain why some people have different views on other subjects and why some people are traditional in their outlook and others more modern.

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.

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