Monday, September 10, 2007

Conservatives, liberals and the anterior cingulate cortex

Can you withhold your habitual response when it's necessary? Then your anterior cingulate cortex is in good working order.

When human beings find themselves at a dead end, their anterior cingulate cortex tells them that they need to change course. Or at least that's what it should do.

But in some people, this part of the brain is less sensitive, causing these individuals to ignore new information.

43 college students were hooked up to electroencephalographs and given a button to press when a computer flashed the letter M. They weren't supposed to press the button when the computer flashed W.

The computer usually showed M, so the subjects got in the habit of pressing the button. It turned out that some people just can't let go of a habit, even when the situation calls for them to change course.

Those who did best on the test had the most electrical activity in their brains when the "No Go" cues were presented, according to researcher David Amodio.

Some people, it seems, will just keep on doing the same thing, even when they are receiving information that tells them they aren't getting anywhere.

Students who had identified themselves as most liberal were the most accurate in pressing the button, and had the most electrical activity in their brains.

See articles:
Los Angeles Times
September 10, 2007,0,5982337.story?coll=la-home-center

Chicago Tribune
September 10, 2007,1,6328755.story

All this makes me wonder how it would have changed history if George W. Bush had a more sensitive anterior cingulate cortex.

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