Tag Archives: brain

Brain Structures May Predict Political Views

With the Canadian election race in full swing,  some people know exactly who they are going to vote for, and others are unsure. Each of us have our own biases and opinions about the big issues like healthcare, defense, and the economy.

Picture from Google Images

A group of scientists from the University College London just published a study in Current Biology that may show why “liberals are open to new experiences and can cope with conflicting information,” and why “conservatives are more sensitive to threat or anxiety in the face of uncertainty. ” (Quotes from Sciencedaily.com)

The team of researchers looked at the different sizes of these two structures called the anterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala (click the name to find out more information about each structure from Wikipedia). This team suspected that there might be a structural difference in the brain that accounts for these differences. And this is indeed what they found. People with larger anterior cingulate cortexes tended to have more liberal views. Whereas people with larger amygdalas tended to have conservative views.

But there is not enough evidence to conclude that only these structures account for the political differences. There were too many uncontrollable factors to take into account, such as life experience, family history, also what kind of environment the subject was raised in. And people also have the ability to change their views over time.

Ryota Kanai of the University College London concluded in the article that “It’s very unlikely that actual political orientation is directly encoded in these brain regions,” and “more work is needed to determine how these brain structures mediate the formation of political attitude.”

Side note:

Picture from Google Images

Vote Compass is a free online survey where just click the answers that are closest to your opinions and it will tell you which political party you are closest to. I think it’s pretty cool, to check it out click on Vote Compass to go there now.


Aerobic Exercise Boosts Memory

As midterms are quickly approaching, many of us are trying to retain and cram as much information as we can into our brains. If it hasn’t already become apparent, most of us will realize that our brains can only store a limited amount of information. Fortunately, there appears to be a way to expand and boost our memory, and that is simply through aerobic exercises.

Image from: www.runningrules.com

In a recent article published by Science News (which can be found here), they reported a study that was highlighted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In this study, scientists discovered that adults who frequently performed aerobic exercise activities such as walking developed an increase in hippocampus volume. The hippocampus, which is a memory centre in the brain, normally decreases in size with age, however in the study the reversed occurred. They also found that the members had higher levels of Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a brain-aiding molecule.

Image from: www.library.thinkquest.org

Wikipedia article on the hippocampus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus

Wikipedia article on Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BDNF

The study compared two different groups of adults aged 60 to 80. In one group, the adults did toning workouts such as weight training and yoga sessions for a year. While in the other group, the adults consistenly walked for three times a week. After a year, the group which simply did toning showed normal results, which consisted of some of the test subjects observing a decrease in hippocampus volume. On the other hand, the group that did a year of aerobic exercises observed roughly a 2 percent increase in anterior hippocampus volume.

If adults aged 60 to 80 can develop increases in the hippocampus by up to 2 percent, it begs the question of whether a younger study group would develop an even larger increase in their hippocampus. Hence, this study should be expanded to include a more diverse age group. Furthermore, why should the study stop there? They could also include teenagers, children, and possibly toddlers as well. Perhaps they might discover that people that have superior memory got that way by doing a lot of aerobic exercise during their childhood. It would also be interesting to understand why and how this process occurs. This is definitely a fascinating area of research, and it has great implications. It shows that exercise not only benefits the body, but the brain as well. So it is in everyone’s interest to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to keep fit.