Tests show political divide could be all in the mind

Neuroscientists are examining whether political allegiances are hard-wired into people after finding evidence that the brains of conservatives are a different shape to those of left-wingers.

Scans of 90 students' brains at University College London (UCL) uncovered a "strong correlation" between the thickness of two particular areas of grey matter and an individual's views.

Self-proclaimed right-wingers had a more pronounced amygdala – a primitive part of the brain associated with emotions – while their political opponents on the left had thicker anterior cingulates.

The research was carried out by Geraint Rees director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience who said he was "very surprised" by the finding, which is being peer reviewed before publication next year.

It was commissioned as a light-hearted experiment by actor Colin Firth as part of his turn guest editing BBC Radio 4's Today programme but has now developed into a serious effort to discover whether we are programmed with a particular political view.

Professor Rees said that although he could not predict someone's politics, there was "a strong correlation that reaches all our scientific tests of significance".

Mr Firth – who recently ended his support for the Liberal Democrats – said he would like to have Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg scanned.