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Integrative medicine: The politics of your brain

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By Dr. Kay Judge and Dr. Maxine Baresh-wreden
Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, 10:16 a.m.
 

Forget about the presidential debates. Did you know your brain may determine your political affiliation? Take the quiz below to see whether your gray matter has liberal or conservative tendencies. Circle A or B in each set for which statement best describes your personality:

A. I am a sensitive person, and will withdraw from negative stimuli in fear or disgust.

B. I can handle uncertainty, and can cope with conflicting information.

A. I do not like threatening faces.

B. I am open to new experiences.

A. My office is tidy and organized.

B. My office is distinctive, colorful and stylish.

A. My bedroom is organized, with cleaning supplies, including calendars, postage stamps, ironing boards and laundry baskets.

B. My bedroom is fun, somewhat cluttered, with many varieties of CDs and books, and vibrant colors.

A. My personality can be described as conscientious, with order, discipline, achievement-striving and rule-following.

B. My personality can be described as open, which includes holding wide interests, and being imaginative and insightful.

If you scored mostly A's, your brain resembles that of many conservatives. If you circled mostly B's, your brain shares similarities with many liberals. The above differences in the workplace were noticed by a New York University psychiatrist after studying undergraduates in Berkeley in 2008, and the results were published in Political Psychology.

Further studies were done by researchers at the University College of London, studying the brains of 120 volunteers, and published in the journal Current Biology in 2011. The researchers found that volunteers who identified themselves as liberal tended to have a larger anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain linked with monitoring uncertainty, which could help them cope with conflicting information.

On the other hand, those who identified themselves as conservative have a larger amygdala, an area linked with heightened sensitivity to fear and distrust.

So does our brain determine our political leanings? There may be an element of the chicken and the egg in politics and the brain, with certain areas of the brain developing more as we utilize certain traits and behaviors. And we know that political ideologies are not static, but tend to change with age. But there may be brain hardwiring that influences our political ideologies.

Feel free to blame your election choices on your brain.

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