Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Political Leanings May Show in Brain

Scientists See Differences in Brain Scans of Liberals and Conservatives During Conflict Test
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 10, 2007 -- Liberals and conservatives may handle mental conflict differently, according to new research on the brain.

The finding comes from researchers including David Amodio, PhD, a research scientist in New York University's psychology department. They scanned the brains of 43 adults during a conflict test.

As part of a confidential personality survey, participants rated their political orientation on a scale ranging from -5 (for extremely liberal) to +5 (for extremely conservative).

After finishing the survey, they donned stretchy caps studded with electrodes to scan their brains during the conflict test.

The test had nothing to do with candidates, votes, or prickly political issues.

Participants watched a computer screen that displayed the letter "M" or "W" for a split second in rapid succession.

The researchers asked half of the group to press a computer key whenever they saw "M" but not "W." The other half of the group got the opposite assignment -- press the button for "W" but not "M."

Most of the time, participants saw the letter that was supposed to prompt them to press the computer key. But 20% of the time, they saw the other letter and were supposed to refrain from pushing the computer key.

Compared with conservatives, liberals were more likely to refrain from pressing the computer key when the wrong letter appeared. Liberals also showed more activity in a brain area called the anterior cingulate cortex, which is involved in monitoring conflicting information, note Amodio and colleagues.

"Although a liberal orientation was associated with better performance on the response-inhibition task examined here, conservatives would presumably perform better on tasks in which a more fixed response style is optimal," write the researchers.

The study appears in the advance online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

How did you develop your political beliefs? Talk about it on WebMD's Voice Your Vote: Election '08 message board.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix