Deeper Than You Think: Partisanship-Dependent Brain Responses in Early Sensory and Motor Brain Regions

Noa Katabi, Hadas Simon, Sharon Yakim, Inbal Ravreby, Tal Ohad, Yaara Yeshurun*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent political polarization has illustrated how individuals with opposing political views often experience ongoing events in markedly different ways. In this study, we explored the neural mechanisms underpinning this phenomenon. We conducted fMRI scanning of 34 right- and left-wing participants (45% females) watching political videos (e.g., campaign ads and political speeches) just before the elections in Israel. As expected, we observed significant differences between left- and right-wing participants in their interpretation of the videos' content. Furthermore, neuroimaging results revealed partisanship-dependent differences in activation and synchronization in higher-order regions. Surprisingly, such differences were also revealed in early sensory, motor, and somatosensory regions. We found that the political content synchronized the responses of primary visual and auditory cortices in a partisanship-dependent manner. Moreover, right-wing (and not left-wing) individuals' sensorimotor cortex was involved in processing right-wing (and not left-wing) political content. These differences were pronounced to the extent that we could predict political orientation from the early brain-response alone. Importantly, no such differences were found with respect to neutral content. Therefore, these results uncover more fundamental neural mechanisms underlying processes of political polarization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1027-1037
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - 8 Feb 2023


  • IS-RSA
  • ISC
  • brain
  • fMRI
  • naturalistic stimuli
  • partisanship


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