On one hand it seems the brain structure of conservatives vs liberals is fixed in some fashion from birth with a large amygdala vs a large anterior cingulate cortex respectively. Yet I have always wondered why certain geographical regions of the USA are seemingly locked into intransigent views. Can it be that people in these regions are really of the same genetic persuasion and thus producing a rigid pattern of political thinking or is there something more akin to a nature vs nurture issue taking place with environmental interactions tipping the balance into a more conservative direction. Consider the polarization of the Midwest with its more conservative values compared to the more liberal values of the coastal states as an example.
I came across the following article which made me think about this role of genetics vs environmental concerns,
Are You A Democrat Or A Republican? A Look At Your Brain Might Tell Us
By Phil Pruitt and Chance Seales, April 13, 2018
https://www.newsy.com/stories/democrat- ... ys-a-role/
Although it is not a particularly well written or documented article, it did stimulate my thoughts when I read about the chicken-and-egg question in the following content,
When you look at the science, our brain is the great sieve through which reality is strained. The amygdala controls how we react to disgusting images, foul odors, differences that challenge the norm.
The bigger the amygdala, the more intense the reaction to perceived threats. It's a survival instinct and could prewire some people against progressivism. Researchers have found a few things: First, people with a large amygdala are less likely to join a protest challenging the norm.
The Composition Of Our Political Parties Has Never Been StarkerThe Composition Of Our Political Parties Has Never Been Starker
Psychologists have found that conservatives are more anxious than liberals — that's a big amygdala doing its thing — which may be why they typically desire stability and structure. And if you remove the amygdala in rats, they show no fear. Not even with cats.
Now, how about the person with a large anterior cingulate cortex? They're pretty much just the opposite, naturally more tolerant. More comfortable with differences that challenge the standard or what they're comfortable with. Less fear. Their brains don't mind the turbulence.
But there's a chicken-and-egg question to all of this. Are some people born with a large amygdala and predestined to become conservatives, or does their amygdala get bigger as they become more conservative?
Same question with the cortex. Probably both, says an NYU psych professor. He thinks "our inborn brain structure guides us to political preferences, but that our political environment also alters our brain structure."
The answer to my question as to why geographic location can influence the genetic vs environment issue regarding whether or not an individual is a conservative or a liberal seems to be answered by looking at the brain's neuroplasticity.
From Molecules to Minds: Challenges for the 21st Century: Workshop Summary.
Institute of Medicine (US) Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK50991/
Grand Challenge: Nature Versus Nurture: How Does the Interplay of Biology and Experience Shape Our Brains and Make Us Who We Are?
Nature vs. nurture is one of the oldest questions in science. The answer is not an either/or, but rather it is both nature and nurture, acting in various degrees. As summarized below in greater detail, many workshop participants—including Hyman, Marder, and Michael Greenberg, chair of the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School—chose to highlight the nature versus nurture question as one of the Grand Challenges of the field, but in so doing, they put a twist on the question, asking: How does the interplay of biology and experience shape our brains and make us who we are?
The key word there is “interplay.” “Interplay” suggests, and modern research in neuroscience demands, that there is a back and forth pattern between nature and nurture, a dynamic system that involves a continuous feedback loop shaping the physical structure of our brains.
In 1998, Fred “Rusty” Gage, working out of the Laboratory of Genetics at the Salk Institute, showed that the human brain can and does produce new nerve cells into adulthood (Eriksson et al., 1998). In mice, he showed that exercise could increase the rate of neurogenesis, showing that the system is not fixed, but responds itself to experience and the outside world. The discovery of neurogenesis and an improved understanding of neuroplasticity—the ability of the brain to shape, form, eliminate, and strengthen new connections throughout life—has completely recast the question of nature versus nurture.
“Neurons can change their connectivity,” explained Blakemore. “They can change the strength of their connections. They can change the morphology of their connections. They can do it not necessarily just in early stages of life, although that is especially exaggerated, but probably throughout life responding to new environments and experiences.”
New research shows, for instance, that the number and strength of connections we have in the brain is determined by how often those connections are stimulated. The brain, if you will, has a “use it or lose it” approach to neurological maintenance.
Genetic programming also plays a key role. In most cases, the initial formation of a synapse occurs independent of stimulation. But if that synapse is not used, the brain will “prune” or eliminate it. Conversely, the more often a connection is used, the stronger it becomes in a physical sense, with more dendritic spines connecting to one another and a stronger net connection over time.
Nature and nurture are not simply additive interactions that result in a particular behavior, but rather a complex interplay of many factors. Nature includes not only the usual factors—parents, homes, what people learn—but also many other factors that individuals are exposed to routinely in their daily environments. As Marder emphasized, we cannot simply assume that gene X produces behavior Y. Instead as Bialek described, there are often many additional factors that directly and indirectly interact with gene X and ultimately influence variants in behavior. These variants define individuality.
As previously described, it has been known for almost 50 years that experience from the outside environment shapes our brain. This comes initially from the original work of Nobel Laureates David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel who studied how information is sensed and processed in the part of the brain responsible for vision. As Greenberg commented, the field is now at a point where we could in the next 10 years attain a significant mechanistic understanding of how the environment impinges directly on our genes to give rise to a malleable organ that allows us to adapt and change.
Under the major heading, YOUR IDEAS AND SOLUTIONS to stop economic inequality, I presented the following idea to change conservatives into liberals. Obviously neuroplasticity is at play as a mechanism to accomplish this which gives us hope we can change the trajectory of purely genetic factors and actually influence conservatives to respond in more liberal ways. The idea is presented as follows:
Meditation To Reduce Conservative Republican's Amygdala Response
Post #1 by Sterling Volunteer » Thu Oct 11, 2018 7:17 pm
I propose using meditation as a means to alter the amygdala's brain structure of conservative Republicans to lessen the amount of income inequality and economic inequality. A mechanism to accomplish this is presented.
The research literature on altering the brain's structure due to meditation is robust and points to structural changes many times in a short period of time. The following article specifically addresses the role of meditation upon the amygdala, the seat of emotional and survival instincts such as fear and anxiety,
The Harvard Gazette
Meditations positive residual effects
By Sue McGreevey
November 13, 2012
A new study has found that participating in an eight-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the brain functions even when someone is not actively meditating.
“This is the first time that meditation training has been shown to affect emotional processing in the brain outside of a meditative state.”
Several previous studies have supported the hypothesis that meditation training improves practitioners’ emotional regulation. Although neuroimaging studies have found that meditation training appeared to decrease activation of the amygdala (a structure at the base of the brain that is also known to have a role in processing memory and emotion), those changes were only observed while study participants were meditating. The current study was designed to test the hypothesis that meditation training could also produce a generalized reduction in amygdala response to emotional stimuli, measurable by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
In the mindful attention group, the after-training brain scans showed a decrease in activation in the right amygdala in response to all images, supporting the hypothesis that meditation can improve emotional stability and response to stress.
Overall, these results are consistent with the overarching hypothesis that meditation may result in enduring, beneficial changes in brain function, especially in the area of emotional processing.”
Further support is offered in,
University of Toronto
U of T News
How spirituality induces liberal attitudes
By Jessica Lewis
February 28, 2013
People become more politically liberal immediately after practising a spiritual exercise such as meditation, researchers at the University of Toronto have found.
"There's great overlap between religious beliefs and political orientations," says one of the study authors, Jordan Peterson of U of T's Department of Psychology. "We found that religious individuals tend to be more conservative and spiritual people tend to be more liberal.
"Inducing a spiritual experience through a guided meditation exercise led both liberals and conservatives to endorse more liberal political attitudes."
In the third study, the researchers recruited 317 participants from the U.S. and asked half to complete a spiritual exercise consisting of a guided meditation video. Those who watched the video were asked to close their eyes and breathe deeply, imagining themselves in a natural setting and feeling connected to the environment. They were then asked about their political orientation and to rate how spiritual they felt. The researchers reported that, compared to those in the control group, participants who meditated felt significantly higher levels of spirituality and expressed more liberal political attitudes, including a reduced support for "tough on crime" policies and a preference for liberal political candidates.
The key to the proposal is to get the wealthy elite to meditate and hence change their brain structure more towards that of liberal's brain structure when it comes to income and economic inequality. This will be accomplished by giving them the reward of a year end tax reduction based upon their fMRI brain scan. This scan will certifying they have truly changed their brain's structure significantly enough to warrant the tax relief.
Have you ever met a conservative Republican who did not want a tax reduction? Certainly not and if you did then they have most likely been mischaracterized and not a true conservative Republican. Just the suggestion of raising their taxes produces an amygdala based fear and survival response whereby they lash out at the individual who made the suggestion as if they were stealing from them. By changing their brain structure through meditation, a reduction in fear and anxiety will set them in the direction of choosing more liberal based programs. This new cognitive gestalt, away from an individualistic survivalist mode to that of a more spiritual induced societal mode, will reduce income and economic inequality by giving them the direct experience of oneness with their fellow human beings.