Brain Shape May Determine Political Views

Tories may be born not made, claims a study that suggests people with right wing views have a larger area of the brain associated with fear.

Photo: Xeo_MB/Flickr

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

On the otherhand, 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.

The “exciting” correlation was found by scientists at University College London who scanned the brains of two members of parliament and a number of students.

They found that the size of the two areas of the brain directly related to the political views of the volunteers.

However as they were all adults it was hard to say whether their brains had been born that way or had developed through experience.

Prof Geraint Rees, who led the research, said: “We were very surprised to find that there was an area of the brain that we could predict political attitude.

“It is very surprising because it does suggest there is something about political attitude that is encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that there is something in our brain structure that determines or results in political attitude.”

Prof Rees and his team, who carried out the research for the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, looked 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.

The results, which will be published next year, back up a study that showed that some people were born with a “Liberal Gene” that makes people more likely to seek out less conventional political views.

The gene, a neurotransmitter in the brain called DRD4, could even be stimulated by the novelty value of radical opinions, claimed the researchers at the University of California. [via  The Telegraph (UK)]

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