Date of Award

August 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

First Advisor

Patrick Kraft

Committee Members

Tom Holbrook, Sara Benesh, Paru Shah, Terri deRoon-Cassini


Biopolitics, Extremism, Ideology, Neuroimaging, Partisanship, Social identity


To fully understand the foundations of political attachments in an increasingly polarized environment, political scientists must reconcile traditional theories of political attitudes and behavior with insight gained from neurobiological approaches. The purpose of this research is to investigate the neurobiological correlates of strength of political ideology and partisanship, as well as the neurobiological correlates of ideological and partisan orientation. To do so, both structural and functional neuroimaging analyses were conducted on a diverse sample of patients at a Level 1 Trauma Center. Results indicate that strong ideological attachment is significantly associated with decreased volume in the left insula, though partisan attachment is not. Functional neuroimaging did not reveal any significant differences in neural activity during an emotion regulation task between strong and weak ideologues or partisans. In examining the neurobiological differences between liberals and conservatives or Democrats and Republicans, structural analyses revealed no significant differences, while functional analyses demonstrated a positive and significant relationship between Republicanism and neural activity in the right inferior parietal lobule in the reappraise condition of the task. Taken together with extant biopolitics literature, these studies indicate a need for additional neuroimaging work in the field of political science.