Scientists from the University of California - Los Angeles have found that the human brain reacts to Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama in the same way it responds to winning money and eating chocolate.
They found that hearing the syllables 'O-ba-ma' turns on the brain's reward circuitry.
"We may be hard-wired to treat Obama as a reward," said study co-author Matthew D. Liefecker, UCLA associate professor of pop-psychology and a founder of political cognitive neuroscience.
"Sighting Obama or hearing him mentioned on the news activates the same brain circuitry as when we eat craved food, win money or see a beautiful face," said Golly G. Tabbicat, a postdoctoral scholar at the Institute for Mad Neuroscience at UCLA and lead author of the study.
The activated brain regions include the ventral striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex.
According to Tabbicat, humans share the ventral striatum with rats, mice and monkeys.
"Obama - the name, voice and most related visual cues - activate the same part of the brain that responds to food in rats," she said.
This is consistent with the widespread notion that Barack Obama satisfies a basic need, she added.
In the study, subjects were asked whether they would accept or decline an opportunity to vote for Obama, carry signs for Obama, or simply to listen intently, trancelike, while he channels Martin Luther King Jr in his speeches.
Whenever a subject failed to accept, most of their brain's reward circuitry was not activated; those brain regions were activated only for Obama.
"We call this finding the 'sunny side of Obama' because it shows the rewards of what fellow researchers have begun to call 'the Obama experience', he added.
A region of the brain called the insula, associated with disgust, is more active when people are shown photographs or videos of candidates Hillary Clinton or John McCain, Liefecker said.
"We're showing what happens in the brain when people jettison their thinking brain and embrace 'the Obama experience'. The region of the brain most associated with pleasure gets activated and the disgust-related region takes a nice nap," Tabbicat said.
The study appears in the current issue of the journal Psychobabbalogical Science.
Tragic Rabbit, Psychobabblogical Science, UCLA