Friday, February 15, 2013

People at different ends of political spectrum 'use their brains differently'

I have long pointed out that political orientation is substantially inborn  -- JR

People at opposite ends of the political spectrum don't just have different views - they even use their brains differently.

Researchers have found liberals and conservatives use different parts of the brain when they make risky decisions and these regions can be used to predict which political party a person prefers.

The new study by a team of political scientists and neuroscientists suggests that while genetics or parental influence may play a significant role, being a Tory or a socialist changes how the brain functions.

Doctor Darren Schreiber, a researcher in neuropolitics at the University of Exeter, has been working in collaboration with colleagues at the University of California on research that explores the differences in the way the brain functions in American liberals and conservatives.

In a previous experiment, participants had their brain activity measured as they played a simple gambling game.

Dr Schreiber and his colleagues were able to look up the political party registration of the participants in public records.

Using this new analysis of 82 people who performed the gambling task, the academics showed that Republicans and Democrats do not differ in the risks they take.

However, there were striking differences in the participants' brain activity during the risk-taking task.

Democrats showed significantly greater activity in the left insula, a region associated with social and self-awareness.   However, Republicans showed significantly greater activity in the right amygdala, a region involved in the body's 'fight-or-flight' system.

The results suggest that liberals and conservatives engage different cognitive processes when they think about risk.

In fact, brain activity in these two regions alone can be used to predict whether a person is a Democrat or Republican with 82.9 per cent accuracy.

By comparison, the longstanding traditional model in political science, which uses the party affiliation of a person's mother and father to predict the child's affiliation, is only accurate about 69.5 per cent of the time.

Another model based on the differences in brain structure distinguishes liberals from conservatives with only 71.6 per cent accuracy. The model also outperforms models based on differences in genes.

Dr Schreiber said: 'Although genetics have been shown to contribute to differences in political ideology and strength of party politics, the portion of variation in political affiliation explained by activity in the amygdala and insula is significantly larger, suggesting that affiliating with a political party and engaging in a partisan environment may alter the brain, above and beyond the effect of heredity.'

The results may pave the way for new research on voter behaviour, yielding better understanding of the differences in how liberals and conservatives think.

Dr Schreiber added: 'The ability to accurately predict party politics using only brain activity while gambling suggests that investigating basic neural differences between voters may provide us with more powerful insights than the traditional tools of political science.'



Australian study explores link between conservatism and happiness

This is a survey of university students only so is pretty idiotic but it does replicate the usual finding that conservatives are happier

A study conducted by a team from UQ Psychology, at the University of Queensland, surveyed 816 undergraduate students to explore the link between conservatism and happiness.

Professor Jolanda Jetten said the findings indicated that conservatives were happier than liberals because of their strong ties to a large network of social groups and a greater access to "social capital."

"In 2008, New York University psychologists Jaime Napier and John Jost were the first to attempt to explain this difference in happiness, arguing that the happiness gap is caused by the difference in ideology between conservatives and liberals," Professor Jetten said.

"It appears (from our research) that what makes conservatives happy is not conservative ideology but rather their social and material advantage - the same advantage that makes conservative ideology appealing in the first place."

Fellow researcher Dr Fiona Kate Barlow said it was found that those with a higher social economic status have access to more group memberships and this created greater life satisfaction.



The 'Statist of the Union Address'

In his State of the Union address, Tuesday, President Obama did what he does best: blame others to divert attention from his own failings on the economy. Every ill we have, per him, is because of a bill of his Congress won't pass. Where is that "you lie" when you need him?

Democrats closed the Kabuki Theater called the "Jobs Council," an Obama-appointed group of business CEOs that had not met in a year. While unemployment is still very high, Obama recently disbanded the Jobs Council. To be fair, the Council attained its goal of saving one person's job – last November. Mission accomplished.

His speech started by saying they were cutting spending, then he spent 90 percent of his talk laying out more spending plans he cleverly calls "investments."

Obama is not economy friendly. He led the charge on unprecedented government overreach in the form of punishing regulations, spending and intrusion into our lives. Jobs, other than his union supporter's, matter little.

Somali pirate style, he commandeered one-seventh of our economy with Obamacare. It was recently estimated that the third-rate "Bronze" Obamacare insurance plan will cost each American family $20,000 per year. Yet, he said Obamacare was already lowering health care costs. Remember when he told us, "If you like your health care plan you can keep it"? Well, you can't.

He unleashed his EPA to all but kill the coal industry and to hamper oil drilling. Gas prices were $1.65 a gallon when he took office; now they are tickling $4. We have an epic U.S. opportunity in natural gas production, so Obama's EPA go after fracking – based on the vast scientific expertise of Matt Damon and other Hollywood knuckleheads.

In spite of Obama's abysmal economic record and with the persuasion of the lapdog media, uninformed voters could not follow the "Three-card Monte" of the Democrats. They reelected him. Why should Obama care if he is not held accountable? He won 303 electoral votes by only doing interviews on sports radio, "ET," "The View," and "Pimp with a Limp."

Obama has Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid with him; together they have a Mike Tyson-level understanding of economics. Cutting spending around them is like inviting your drug dealer to your intervention.

He is a Chicago politician. He thinks that everything in Washington is a zero-sum game. One side wins, the other loses. He has the same view of the economy. If Apple succeeded, the company must have screwed over someone.

Obama only knows politics, and he only has one go-to reaction: campaign mode. He does not persuade with better ideas, he blames and then destroys his enemies. Remember the Boy Scout Romney?

The hypocrisy of a man who has his Nobel Peace Prize on his wall next to his drone kill list is astonishing. His odd enthusiasm for killing with drones, which mystifies the Left, speaks to his "destroy others" mentality. A picture recently released by the White House showed Obama firing a shotgun. No doubt he was heroically protecting our country from low-flying skeet.

He applies to politics the business model of Chicago street gangs: Destroy rivals to gain turf. But the economy does not work that way. Apple does well with Verizon's success and in spite of AT&T's failure. They depend on each other, with mutually beneficial and enlightened self-interest in a growing economic pie. One person's economic success multiplies into greater wealth for others.

The recession he "inherited" ended July 2009, months after he was sworn in. Since then we have had the worst economic growth of any so-called recovery in 65 years.

All recessions end. Of the 10 recessions of the past 65 years, economic growth for the following three years averaged 4.6 percent. GDP growth under Obama's "recovery" has registered a tepid 2.2 percent.

The White House finds it comforting to say that this was a bad recession. But as any sober economist will tell you, the worse the economic downturn, the more robust the recovery (historically 5.9 percent). The difference between 5.9 percent historic growth and Obama's 2.2 percent would mean $1.6 trillion more over three years, or $7,000 per working American.

Al-Qaida could not have done as much damage to the U.S. as this administration has, working to destroy our economy with a morass of entrenched bureaucracies. The terrorists can now retire. They set about to weaken and destroy America, which task is now in the capable hands of the Left.



California defines doctoring down

 As the state moves to expand healthcare coverage to millions of Californians under President Obama's healthcare law, it faces a major obstacle: There aren't enough doctors to treat a crush of newly insured patients.

Some lawmakers want to fill the gap by redefining who can provide healthcare.

They are working on proposals that would allow physician assistants to treat more patients and nurse practitioners to set up independent practices. Pharmacists and optometrists could act as primary care providers, diagnosing and managing some chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high-blood pressure.

"We're going to be mandating that every single person in this state have insurance," said state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), chairman of the Senate Health Committee and leader of the effort to expand professional boundaries. "What good is it if they are going to have a health insurance card but no access to doctors?"

Hernandez's proposed changes, which would dramatically shake up the medical establishment in California, have set off a turf war with physicians that could contribute to the success or failure of the federal Affordable Care Act in California.

Doctors say giving non-physicians more authority and autonomy could jeopardize patient safety. It could also drive up costs, because those workers, who have less medical education and training, tend to order more tests and prescribe more antibiotics, they said.

"Patient safety should always trump access concerns," said Dr. Paul Phinney, president of the California Medical Assn.

Such "scope-of-practice" fights are flaring across the country as states brace for an influx of patients into already strained healthcare systems. About 350 laws altering what health professionals may do have been enacted nationwide in the last two years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Since Jan. 1, more than 50 additional proposals have been launched in 24 states.

As the nation's earliest and most aggressive adopter of the healthcare overhaul, California faces more pressure than many states. Diana Dooley, secretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency, said in an interview that expanding some professionals' roles was among the options policymakers should explore to help meet the expected demand.

At a meeting of healthcare advocates in December, she had offered a more blunt assessment.

"We're going to have to provide care at lower levels," she told the group. "I think a lot of people are trained to do work that our licenses don't allow them to."

Currently, just 16 of California's 58 counties have the federal government's recommended supply of primary care physicians, with the Inland Empire and the San Joaquin Valley facing the worst shortages. In addition, nearly 30% of the state's doctors are nearing retirement age, the highest percentage in the nation, according to the Assn. of American Medical Colleges.

Physician assistants, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and optometrists agree that they have more training than they are allowed to use.

"We don't have enough providers," said Beth Haney, president of the California Assn. for Nurse Practitioners, " we should increase access to the ones that we have."

Hernandez, who said he would introduce his legislation and hold a hearing on the issue next month, said his own experience as an optometrist shows the need to empower more practitioners. He said he often sees Medicaid patients who come to his La Puente practice because they have failed their vision test at the DMV. Many complain of constant thirst and frequent urination.

"I know it's diabetes," he said. But he is not allowed to diagnose or treat it and must refer those patients elsewhere. Many of them may face a months-long wait to see a doctor.

The California Medical Assn. says healthcare professionals should not exceed their training. Phinney, a pediatrician, said physician assistants and other mid-level professionals are best deployed in doctor-led teams. They can perform routine exams and prescribe medications in consultation with physicians on the premises or by teleconference.

Allowing certain health workers to set up independent practices would create voids in the clinics, hospitals and offices where they now work, he said. "It's more like moving the deck chairs around rather than solving the problem," Phinney said.

His group proposes a different solution: It wants more funding to expand participation in a loan repayment program for recent medical school graduates. Doctors can now receive up to $105,000 in return for practicing in underserved communities for three years.

Still, it typically takes a decade to train a physician. Health experts say the pool of graduates cannot keep pace.

"We're not going to produce thousands of additional doctors in any kind of short-term time frame," said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento). "It makes sense to look at changes that could relieve the pressure that we're going to undoubtedly encounter for access to care."

Administrators of community clinics and public hospitals say nurse practitioners and other non-physician providers already play key roles in caring for patients, a trend they predict will grow as more Californians become insured and enter the healthcare system.

At Kern Medical Center in Kern County, two clinical pharmacists have run the hospital's diabetes clinic, treating about 500 patients a year, since the specialist physician in charge retired. They are licensed to perform physicals, order lab tests, prescribe medicines and counsel patients on lifestyle changes.

"We're going to have to get a whole lot more creative about how care is provided," said Paul Hensler, Kern Medical Center's chief executive.




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