Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Meme: Conseratives Have Better Developed Brains (or something)

A British team reports that conservatives have larger amygdalae than liberals on average, while having smaller anterior cingulate cortexes.

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.

Liberals in the media raced to say that therefore, political leanings were hardwired; conservatives were more influenced by the fear conditioning with which the amygdyla is commonly associated ("Conservatives have larger Fear Center"), while liberals were more influenced by the warm and fuzzy anterior cingulate cortexes role in reward anticipation, decision-making, empathy and emotion.

Some conservatives, who apparently aren't too afraid to google, quickly noticed that larger amygdalae were also associated with greater social skills (a much larger social network).

The findings correspond to previous research that found that primates also have a larger amygdala, relative to the overall size of their brain and body. Like humans, primates live in fairly complex social groups, suggesting that a larger amygdala has evolved to help navigate these landscapes. The amygdala has also been shown to be involved with fear, emotion and even seizures, said Paul Sanberg, director of the University of South Florida Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair in Tampa. Sanberg was not involved with the new study. “It’s part of the ‘old’ section of the brain,” he explained. [U.S. News & World Report]
“People who have large amygdalas may have the raw material needed to maintain larger and more complex social networks,” said Barrett. “That said, the brain is a use it or lose it organ. It may be that when people interact more their amygdalas get larger. That would be my guess.” [The Guardian]
Interesting, but, much as as I asked in a previous article:
  1. Do these patterns persist after a change in government for liberal dominated to conservative dominated or vice versa?  Does the amygdala grow in response to being in power?
  2. What happens when a person shifts political orientation.  Does the amagdyla grow as a person shifts from liberal to conservative?  If the do, do they anticipate or follow that shift?  Is is possible liberalism is a childish state of the amygdala which sometimes persists throughout life?

1 comment:

  1. "conservatives have larger amygdalae than liberals on average, while having smaller anterior cingulate cortexes."

    ~ proving once again that bigger IS better. :)