And Yet Another Oscar?

The activity in our brains is yielding more and more to magnetic resonance imaging and reading the genes. In this context, the BBC acted as a catalyst for a rather nice study suggested by Colin Firth while he was doing a bit of guest editing on the current affairs program, ‘Today,’ during the run up to Christmas. He had the bright idea that politicians should have their heads examined. The combined power of the Beeb and Mr. Firth resulted in a labor Member and a conservative Member of Parliament having their brains looked at.

The exciting results were too good to ignore and a study of 90 students at U College London, who are soon to be released into the arms of the unsuspecting public, was started and has now been published (1,2). After the Blair-Brown disaster and UCL being moderately upmarket, no student was asked to admit to being of the Labor persuasion.  They had to rate their political views on a five-point scale between very liberal to very conservative.

The big magnet then teased out their gray matter variations in three parts of the brain. These were the amygdala where your fear factor lurks, the anterior cingulate cortex, which helps you dither and the left insula where feelings of disgust start seeping out from.

The more liberal leaning had more gray matter to dither with in their cingulate cortex. That is, they can tolerate more uncertainty. A fatter amygdala and insula correlated with being conservative and means you have more to get worried about things with and feel disgusted.

Your lifestyle and brain activity do cause changes in your brain so it is interesting to speculate about what they have been teaching these guys at UCL, or have they all been watching too much television, and which channels?

If these gray matter features don’t change much with age and experience, we could save money on elections and just give everybody brain scans as an 18th birthday present and then juggle the parliamentary composition on the basis of a running average. Clearly, the selection of politicians should include information on how plump their amygdalas and cingulate cortexes are. We voters have a need to know.

  2. R. Kanal, T. Fellden, C. Firth, & G. Rees, Current Biology, 21, 677, (2011).

2 Responses so far.

  1. Awesome post. I like it Brain Scan for all politicians. I wonder what Weiner's would show.

  2. A very small insula I would anticipate.

Leave a Reply