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Obama Fan? Brain Scan May Tell if You're One, Study Says

Wednesday, 20 Feb 2013 09:54 PM

By Michael Mullins

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A new British study suggests brain scans can predict a person's political ideology, based on the subject's reaction to risk.

During a gambling game, the study showed that participants who identified as Republican or conservative were more likely to show activity in the area of the brain associated with reward, fear, and risky decisions. Conversely, participants who said they were Democrats or liberal showed activity in a different area of the brain, the section linked to processing emotion and internal body cues.

The study was conducted by the University of Exeter in southwest England and included 35 male and 47 female test subjects,

In the gambling game, participants were given three numbers, 20, 40, and 80, and had to make decisions.

Researchers told participants they could either hit a button when "20" appeared to receive 20 cents or wait until "40" and "80" flashed to receive 40 or 80 cents. The "40" and the "80" were riskier options and participants might walk away with nothing if they waited too long to hit the button.

Researchers hypothesized that political ideology had nothing to do with the amount of risk participants took, but the brain scans during the game came out differently for Republicans than it did for Democrats.

Conservative subjects showed the most activity in the right amygdala, an area of the brain associated with processing fear, risk and reward. Liberal subjects had activity in the left posterior insula, a section that processes emotions.

The researchers were able to predict a person's political leanings based on the scans 82.9 percent of the time.

"The ability to accurately predict party politics using only brain activity while gambling suggests that investigating basic neural differences between voters may provide us with more powerful insights than the traditional tools of political science," researcher Darren Schreiber told Live Science.

Related stories:

Brain Reaction to Guilt May Be Key to Depression, Study Finds

Brain Scan Can Tell If a Smoker Will Quit

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