are examining whether political allegiances are
hard-wired into people after finding evidence that the
brains of conservatives are a different shape to those
of 90 students' brains at University College London (UCL)
uncovered a "strong correlation" between the
thickness of two particular areas of grey matter and an
right-wingers had a more pronounced amygdala - a
primitive part of the brain associated with emotion
while their political opponents from the opposite end of
the spectrum had thicker anterior cingulates.
research was carried out by Geraint Rees director of the
UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience who said he was
"very surprised" by the finding, which is
being peer reviewed before publication next year.
was commissioned as a light-hearted experiment by
actor Colin Firth as part of his turn guest editing BBC
Radio 4's Today programme but has now developed into a
serious effort to discover whether we are programmed
with a particular political view.
Rees said that although it was not precise enough to be
able to predict someone's stance simply from a scan,
there was "a strong correlation that reaches all
our scientific tests of significance".
anterior cingulate is a part of the brain that is on the
middle surface of the brain at the front and we found
that the thickness of the grey matter, where the nerve
cells of neurons are, was thicker the more people
described themselves as liberal or left wing and thinner
the more they described themselves as conservative or
right wing," he told the programme.
amygdala is a part of the brain which is very old and
very ancient and thought to be very primitive and to do
with the detection of emotions. The right amygdala was
larger in those people who described themselves as
is very significant because it does suggest there is
something about political attitudes that are either
encoded in our brain structure through our experience or
that our brain structure in some way determines or
results in our political attitudes."
Firth - who recently declared he had ended public
support for the Liberal Democrats - said he would like
to have party leader and now Deputy Prime Minister Nick
Clegg subjected to the tests.
think we should have him scanned," he said.
said the coalition made him "extremely uneasy"
but would not rule out voting Lib Dem in future.
would have to see what identity they took on because I
don't recognise them at the moment. I think all three
parties are in a state of re-evaluation."
about the experiment, he said: "I took this on as a
fairly frivolous exercise: I just decided to find out
what was biologically wrong with people who don't agree
with me and see what scientists had to say about it and
they actually came up with something."