Are Election Year politics good for the brain?

Focused thought and political activism develop brain neural connections, neuron-pharmacologist says

SAN ANTONIO (Feb. 25, 2008)—The presidential primaries and the upcoming November election are more than good entertainment or heated politics. The fever pitch of the season actually stimulates our brains.

“These political campaigns are having biological effects in people who are closely following the debates, participating in rallies or actively campaigning,” said neuro-pharmacologist John D. Roache, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychiatry at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. “Regardless of political orientation, involvement is activating the brain, whether it is engaging cognitive and learning processes or arousing emotion and engaging physical activity. Probably none of it is harmful and most of it is good to promote health,” Dr. Roache said.

The brain is hard-wired with systems that control attention, learning and behavioral activation in motivational processes such as hunger, sex drive and social involvement. Clearly, interest in politics can be arousing and engaging, and stimulates many of these same processes.

“As we listen to the candidates and think about what is being said, the brain processes the information, which grows neural connections and increases the neurochemical signaling that is associated with learning and memory,” Dr. Roache said. “If we become emotionally engaged and even become politically active by going to a rally or actively campaigning for a candidate, then the greater levels of emotion or commitment further enhance the brain processes and connect them all the more with the emotion and physical activity involved.”

The bottom line is, if there is something that gets you motivated or interested or involved, “that is generally good for your brain,” Dr. Roache said.


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $576 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $15.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 22,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and allied health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, allied health, dentistry and many other fields.

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