Partisanship can now be seen in brain scans.
- A new study shows brain activity differs between liberals and conservatives when they watch political videos.
- Brain activity differed between partisans when words tied to emotions, morality, or threats were used.
- The findings could help us understand how partisans process information, perhaps leading to new ways to bridge the divide.
How does it interact with what we already know?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/3RsCp-sVl20" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> These findings can be added to the list of studies that show that our political alignments might have something to do with how our brains process information. Non-partisans, often suggested to not be a real group of people, have measurably different brain activity than <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/non-partisan-brain" target="_self">partisans</a>. Brain scans show Democrats and Republicans used different parts of their brains when playing a gambling <a href="https://www.livescience.com/27213-brain-scans-predict-political-party.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">game</a>. <br></p><p>Dr. Leong hopes to use this information to build better models of how the brain processes political information. Perhaps someday, these models can help us understand how to talk to each other without using these trigger words. <br> </p><p>Politics is becoming increasingly polarized in several countries all around the world. The causes for it are still up for debate, and ways to help narrow the gaps between people are still being investigated. An increasing number of studies suggest that some of it comes down to how our brains function. </p><p> While the idea of polarization being tied to how our brains work probably won't come as a comfort to most people, the ability to identify precisely what is happening when people have polarized reactions is a step forward, as it offers a chance to understand what the other side is doing when we disagree. Perhaps someday soon, this will translate to better ways to reach across the aisle and more productive conversations informed by neuroscience. </p>
Blame our ancestors for why it's easier to be a couch potato.
- A new study shows that the brain prefers to expend as little energy as possible.
- Putting forth less effort had advantages for our ancestors.
- Being inactive is not beneficial in modern life and needs addressing.
This animation shows the experiment the participants were asked to perform, moving the avatar closer or farther from the image shown.
Credit: UBC Media Relations
Both schizophrenics and people with a common personality type share similar brain patterns.
- A new study shows that people with a common personality type share brain activity with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
- The study gives insight into how the brain activity associated with mental illnesses relates to brain activity in healthy individuals.
- This finding not only improves our understanding of how the brain works but may one day be applied to treatments.
The Schizotypal Personality<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5d6b8d5b3aecddd241d26243ac33aeb3"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hzcIdCdPuUs?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizotypal-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353919" target="_blank">schizotypal personality</a> is characterized by social anxiety, magical thinking, unusual perceptual experiences, eccentric behavior, a lack of close friends, atypical speech patterns, and suspicions bordering on paranoia. These personality traits that, taken together, resemble the symptoms of schizophrenia.</p><p>A person with <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/schizotypal-personality-disorder" target="_blank">schizotypal personality disorder</a> has these personality traits at a level where they begin to interfere with their lives, such as preventing them from forming close relationships, but they lack the hallucinations or delusions commonly associated with full-blown schizophrenia.<sup>1</sup> </p><p>The similarities between this personality type and the symptoms of schizophrenia interested the researchers. Since <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213158215001436" target="_blank">previous studies</a> had shown that the electrophysiological response patterns in the brains of schizophrenic test subjects were often strange (the patterns showed a reduced post-movement beta rebound [PMBR] to be precise), the study looked at the brains of healthy patients to see if a person with a schizotypal personality would have similar brain activity.</p>
The experiment<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODY0NzYwNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzQzMzE4Mn0.V1uUF-5LKraBeY9f8SPN5gwruXjg39Dx_Q4BQSWaacU/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="245db" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d67f534ea95babb8232b78a6b88f3e75" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Eduard Einstein (left) and his father Albert Einstein. Eduard was a brilliant student who wanted to study psychiatry before being diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 20. He lived a difficult life afterwards, dying in an institution at the age of 55.
(Einstein: His Life and Universe)<p>The experiment took 112 test subjects and had them answer a questionnaire, similar to <a href="https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e84e/a17580e2afd70777e70294b076ea4f810cb2.pdf" target="_blank">others </a>available <a href="https://psymed.info/schizotypal-personality-disorder-test" target="_blank">online</a>, to determine how many features of the schizotypal personality they had. They were then strapped into a <a href="http://ilabs.washington.edu/what-magnetoencephalography-meg" target="_blank">magnetoencephalography</a> (MEG) machine to have their brains scanned while they performed a simple motor task.</p><p>The volunteers were asked to move their index fingers when given a prompt. The reaction in their brains was recorded. The results were then compared to the answers the test subjects gave in their questionnaires.</p><p>As expected, the higher that a person scored on the schizotypal personality test, the more subdued their PMBR brain activity was—just as it is for patients with schizophrenia. This brain activity was particularly associated with scoring high on the parts of the test geared towards reveling the subject's tendencies to disorganized thinking and difficulty in forming interpersonal relationships.</p>
What are the implications of this study?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODY0Nzc0MS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTg5MzIwN30.aBOy-gIsb-lFMyfDax-tzuaBABMz_VrvUTxHd4Kbmlc/img.png?width=1245&coordinates=3%2C252%2C3%2C252&height=700" id="789f0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="acdb45767221dc0d66d873b60c66181c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Sample brain scans from the study. Here we see false color images of the brain, with areas that showed higher brain activity during the experiment shown in the most vibrant shades. The top row shows the change above baseline and the bottom shows the change below it. In a test subject with either schizophrenia or many schizotypal traits, the amplitude of the change would be greatly reduced.
(Hunt et al.)<p>The authors conclude the study by explaining</p><blockquote>The finding that diminution of PMBR, previously reported in schizophrenia, is correlated with the severity of schizotypal features across the range observed in the general population, supports the hypothesis that at least some aspects of schizophrenia lie at the extreme end of a normal personality variant.</blockquote><p>This idea, which has been around since the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3332195" target="_blank">seventies</a>, has recently been given more attention as a result of increasing interest in the concept of viewing mental disorders as existing on a gradient. This new view could lead to a better understanding of schizophrenia and perhaps even better treatments over the long run. </p><p>The results might also be of use in reducing the stigma around mental illness, as the study shows that the thought processes of people with schizophrenia are not categorically different from those of many other people. It is a difference of severity, not substance, which seems to separate those suffering from schizophrenia from the people who are merely eccentric. </p><p>Of course, more research is needed. At this moment, scientists aren't sure what neural mechanism even causes this brain activity, let alone how to treat the more extreme manifestations of the reduced activity seen in cases of schizophrenia. </p><p>Our understanding of mental illness has changed drastically over the last few decades as old ideas of what counted as mental illness are thrown out, and new ideas step up to replace old paradigms. The results of this study suggest that the brains of patients with this disease are more similar to the minds of healthy people than had previously been thought. While it will take years of more research before any medical advances are made on this information, our understanding of the people who go through life with this condition can be improved today. </p>
Scientists have developed an algorithm that reliably detects the signs of Alzheimer’s dementia before its onset.