Using voting records, the researchers found out political party affiliation for 35 of the men and 47 of the women in that study. Political parties aren't a perfect match with ideology, but they come very close, the researchers wrote Feb. 13 in the journal PLOS ONE. Most Democrats hold liberal values, while most Republicans hold conservative values.
Political brains Comparing the Democrat and Republican participants turned up differences in two brain regions: the right amygdala and the left posterior insula. Republicans showed more activity than Democrats in the right amygdala when making a risky decision. This brain region is important for processing fear, risk and reward.
NEWS: Does the Brain Have an Evil 'Dark Patch'?
Meanwhile, Democrats showed more activity in the left posterior insula, a portion of the brain responsible for processing emotions, particularly visceral emotional cues from the body. The particular region of the insula that showed the heightened activity has also been linked with "theory of mind," or the ability to understand what others might be thinking.
While their brain activity differed, the two groups' behaviors were identical, the study found.
Schreiber and his colleagues can't say whether the functional brain differences nudge people toward a particular ideology or not. The brain changes based on how it is used, so it is possible that acting in a partisan way prompts the differences.
The functional differences did mesh well with political beliefs, however. The researchers were able to predict a person's political party by looking at their brain function 82.9 percent of the time. In comparison, knowing the structure of these regions predicts party correctly 71 percent of the time, and knowing someone's parents' political affiliation can tell you theirs 69.5 percent of the time, the researchers wrote.
This article originally appeared on LiveScience.com.
More From LiveScience.com:
10 Historically Significant Political Protests The 5 Strangest Presidential Elections in US History 5 Reasons Your Vote Will Be Irrational