If you’re paying attention to the current presidential campaign, you’re also doing your brain a favor regardless of whether you favor Clinton, McCain or Obama, says one neuroscientist. The brain has hard-wired systems that control attention and learning in processes that motivate us, including hunger, sex drive and social involvement. An interest in politics can stimulate these systems in the brain, says neuro-pharmacologist John D. Roache of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. "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," Roache said. Other engaging activities, such as exercise or doing crossword puzzles, can stimulate the brain and protect it against developing dementia, studies have shown. Even more beneficial than just following the campaigns is active participation, whether by watching a debate or attending a rally, Roache says. "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," he said. And the benefits come regardless of whether you're a Republican, Democrat or Independent, Roache adds, so whatever views get you motivated, they're likely to give your brain a boost.
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