Political views are reflected in brain structure

April 8, 2011

Differences in political orientation are tied to differences in the structures of our brains, University College London researchers have found.

Individuals who call themselves liberal tend to have a larger anterior cingulate cortex, while those who call themselves conservative have a larger amygdala, the researchers say. This is consistent with reports showing a greater ability of liberals to cope with conflicting information and a greater ability of conservatives to recognize a threat.

“In principle, our research method can be applied to find brain structure differences in political dimensions other than the simplistic left- versus right-wingers,”  says Ryota Kanai of the University College London.

However, he cautions that it’s “very unlikely that actual political orientation is directly encoded in these brain regions. More work is needed to determine how these brain structures mediate the formation of political attitude.”

Ref.: Ryota Kanai et al., Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults, April 7 online edition, Current Biology