If you are a self-reflective individual, a person who thinks about the meaning and impact of your decisions and actions — considered to be a key aspect of human consciousness — you may have more grey matter in the anterior prefrontal cortex of the brain. This region lying right behind our eyes is a strong indicator of our introspective ability.
Researchers also believe that the structure of white matter connected to this area is a second factor in the process of introspection. Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging at The University College London don’t yet understand the interplay of grey matter and white matter in the prefrontal cortex, only that brain scans reveal a positive correlation between volume and being a self-reflective individual. via Science Daily
Researchers already know that “liberals” have twice as much activity as “conservatives” in the deep region of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex, located away from the prefrontal cortex. Liberals were much more adept at noting the odd-button in a sequence of decision-making exercises, predicated on repetition with an occasional new item requiring a different response. Conservatives tended to get the new button wrong, operating on mental auto-pilot and hitting the same button without thinking.
Note that conservatives argue that liberals spend too much time analyzing situations and not enough time taking action. Liberals continue to ask too many questions, rather than acting on proven knowledge, say conservatives.
What brain scans are teaching us is that our values, politics, even global perspectives may be determined by our brain structure, more than we ever believed possible.
Nor should we conclude that brain structure is a steady state structure. Researchers scanning brains of young children determined that physically unfit kids (based on treadmill tests) had a smaller hippocampus. A larger hippocampus is associated with superior spatial reasoning and other cognitive tasks. Our lifestyles impact brain structure.