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Posts Tagged 'Genetics'

Are our political beliefs hard-wired? New research suggests that they are.


Conservative MP Alan Duncan's Brain

Are political beliefs hard-wired? This was a question put to Professor Geraint Rees at UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience earlier this month by actor Colin Firth, guest editor of BBC 4’s Today programme.

To attempt to answer the question Professor Rees invited Thatcherite Conservative MP Alan Duncan and Labour stalwart Stephen Pound to undergo a structural brain scan using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). He then extended the experiment to include a pool of 90 undergraduates and post-doctorates who had previously been scanned at the Institute in other, unrelated experiments. They were asked to fill in a questionnaire assessing their political values, and their answers (along with those from the two MPs) were compared with the earlier structural brain scans. Today reports:

The results showed a strong correlation between political belief and two specific regions of the brain. The grey matter of the anterior cingulate was significantly thicker amongst those who described themselves as liberal, or left wing, while the amygdala – an area associated with emotional processing – was larger in those who regarded themselves as conservative or right wing. 

“It’s a remarkable finding” says professor Rees. “We were very surprised to find two areas of the brain from which we could predict political attitudes.”

Interestingly the results from Alan Duncan and Stephen Pound were consistent with the overall findings. Stephen Pound’s scan revealed a thicker anterior cingulate – consistent with those students who described themselves as left-wing – while Alan Duncan’s was thinner. Both MP’s recorded similar densities for the amygdala.   Read the rest of this entry »