My Amygdala, My Self

Intrigued (and alarmed) by the new science of “neuromarketing,” our correspondent peers into his own brain via an MRI machine and learns what he really thinks about Jimmy Carter, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bruce Springsteen, and Edie Falco.

Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic:

Screenhunter_05_jul_04_1756My friend Bill Knapp, who is a Democratic political consultant and, as such, a man whose devotion to a coherent set of liberal-centrist policy ideas does not waver, at least in public, suggested that I have my head examined, in order to determine whether I was neurologically wired for liberalism or conservatism. My wife asked, with a disconcerting level of enthusiasm, whether this was actually possible.

“Not only is it possible, but I have the perfect person to do it,” Bill said (I’m permitted to quote him because the Goldberg seder is on the record). He told us that a neuroscientist named Marco Iacoboni, who directs UCLA’s Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Laboratory (it sounds even better in the original German), could scan my brain while showing me images of famous politicians. My brain’s response to these pictures, as recorded by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, would uncover my actual inclinations and predispositions by sidestepping the usual inhibition controls that can make focus-group testing unreliable.

I was hesitant, for two reasons. First, I believed that I already possessed a superior grasp of my brain’s division of labor: 30 percent of my brain is obsessed with the Holocaust; an additional 30 percent worries about my children; 10 percent is reserved for status anxiety; 7 percent, The Sopranos; 4 percent, Kurds; 2 percent, Chinese food; and so on. I reserve approximately 6 percent, on good days, for The Atlantic.

In addition, I think about sex, and the New York Yankees.

More here.