Social networking, Politics and the Amygdala by Dr Jack Lewis

If you take a quick peak in most neuroscience textbooks you will most likely be informed that the amygdala is a critical part of the emotion-generating limbic system and that it’s primary role is to trigger the fear response. However during the few days between Christmas and New Year I found myself writing two separate #braintweets that described a pair of recent studies that identified a positive correlation between the size of a person’s amygdalae and high-level brain functions that, on the face of it, have nothing to do with fear whatsoever: 1) a larger social network and 2) a conservative political persuation. Here I investigate how these seemingly incompatible findings about the amygdala all fit together. I argue that, tempting as it is to draw the facile conclusion that that people with large amygdalae are more fearful in general, which makes them more likely to vote conservative and to nurture a large group of allies to protect themselves, in all likelihood this is probably not the case.