Wednesday 24 May 2017

Liberals and right-wing firebrands have politics on the brain

Joe Churcher in London

Neuroscientists are examining whether political allegiances are hard-wired into people after finding evidence that the brains of conservatives are a different shape to those of left-wingers.

Scans of 90 students' brains at University College London (UCL) uncovered a "strong correlation" between the thickness of two particular areas of grey matter and an individual's views.

Self-proclaimed right-wingers had a more pronounced amygdala -- a primitive part of the brain associated with emotion, while their opponents from the opposite end of the spectrum had thicker anterior cingulates.

Research

The research was carried out by Geraint Rees, director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, who said he was "very surprised" by the finding, which is being peer reviewed before publication next year.

It was commissioned as a light-hearted experiment by actor Colin Firth as part of his turn guest editing BBC Radio 4's Today programme but has now developed into a serious effort to discover whether we are programmed with a particular political view.

Professor Rees said that although it was not precise enough to be able to predict someone's stance simply from a scan, there was "a strong correlation that reaches all our scientific tests of significance".

"The anterior cingulate is a part of the brain and we found that the thickness of the grey matter, where the nerve cells of neurons are, was thicker the more people described themselves as liberal or left wing and thinner the more they described themselves as conservative or right wing."

Irish Independent

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