Arguing Taxes the Brain Much More, Scans Show

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 13, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Brain Drain: Arguing with others puts a lot more strain on your brain than agreeing with them, according to a new study.

“Our entire brain is a social processing network,” said senior author Joy Hirsch, professor of psychiatry, comparative medicine and neuroscience at Yale University. “However, it just takes a lot more brain to disagree than to agree.”

The researchers, from Yale and University College London, asked 38 adults whether or not they agree or disagree with a series of potentially contentious statements such as “same-sex marriage is a civil right” or “marijuana should be legalized ”.

The researchers then monitored participants’ brain activity when they were paired up and had face-to-face discussions about the topics.

When people agreed, their brain activity was harmonious and tended to focus in sensory areas of the brain such as the visual system, possibly in response to social cues from the other person, according to the authors.

When people disagreed, sensory areas of the brain were less active while there was increased activity in areas of the brain that handled higher-order executive functions, such as reasoning.

“There is a synchronicity between the brains when we agree,” Hirsch said in an academic press release. “But when we don’t agree, the neural coupling goes offline.” She noted that in discord, the two brains engage many emotional and reflective resources “like a symphony orchestra playing different music.”

The study was published on January 13 in the journal Frontiers of human neuroscience.

According to Hirsch, it’s important to understand how our brains work when they disagree or agree, because the United States faces sharp political divisions.

More information

The American Psychological Association offers advice on anger control.

SOURCE: Yale University, press release, January 13, 2021

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