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Red or blue? The shape of your grey matter may reveal your political stripe

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff are seen as they speak with the media following caucus meetings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, June 17, 2009.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Liberals and conservatives don't think alike. And it turns out the structures of their brains are often different too.

A new study from researchers at the University College London have found that people who consider themselves liberal tend to have a larger anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain believed to be have an "executive function," which controls how we process information. Those who consider themselves conservative tend to have a larger amygdala, which is linked to emotional detection.

The scientists say their findings match previous evidence that liberals are better at dealing with conflicting information and that conservatives are better at recognizing threats.

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"Previously, some psychological traits were known to be predictive of an individual's political orientation," researcher Ryota Kanai said in a press release. "Our study now links such personality traits with specific brain structure."

Scientists don't know, however, whether the structure of the brain determines political orientation - or whether it's the other way around. The shape of the brain changes as we get older and is shaped by experiences. Some people also change political views.

The researchers say further study into the differences in brain structure may also be able to explain why some people don't care about politics at all.





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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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