It’s an increasingly widespread problem: ‘blue’ children born to ‘red’ parents. But is there anything that can be done to treat early onset political disorders—before they harden into life-long voting patterns? Some scientists say that innovative laser surgery may be the answer, and that putting politically disturbed children under the knife is far more effective than treating them on the couch.
New research links liberal views in children to a genetic disorder
By Hermione Slatkin, Health Correspondent
BALTIMORE -- It's one of the first questions new parents hear these days: is your child liberal or conservative? But for a growing number of parents, the answer is an all too unpleasant admission. Call them red parents of blue children, or simply red-faced with shame, these conservative mothers and fathers are hungry for a solution.
Now, for the first time, scientists may finally be getting a handle on what causes political disorders in young children—and what can be done to cure this damaging affliction.
Bad judgment—in the genes
Researchers believe that our political views are genetically hard-wired into the brain before birth. So why are some children capable of advanced conservative reasoning while others are afflicted with Early Onset Political Disorder or EOPD? Scientists believe that this particular variety of political disorder results when a mutation causes the product of a single gene to be altered or missing. And unless the mutation is repaired at the cellular level prior to birth, EOPD can result. Download the EOPD selft-test (PDF).
Roughly 1 in 4,000 babies are born with the condition, say scientists, and until recently the prognosis for the afflicted children was extremely grim. “Most parents don’t even become aware that their child suffers from EOPD until it’s too late,” says Dr. Steven Geiger, director of research at the Center for Neurological Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. “They suspect that something is wrong, that their child is ‘different’ or ‘difficult,’ but we haven’t been able to offer them much hope.”
Under the knife—for a better life
But thanks to an innovative surgical procedure, a solution to the disorder may finally lay within reach. Using a technique similar to arthroscopic surgery, Geiger and others have been able to penetrate the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, the neural region where reason, emotion and judgment intersect.
By firing lasers at the cortexes of children who suffer from EOPD, the doctors say that they’ve been able to reduce symptoms of the disorder by as much as 75%. And best of all, once performed, the procedure seems to be permanent, although Geiger notes that his young patients may require another dose of the treatment once they turn 18. “It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. After just 30 seconds under the laser, these kids are able to distinguish between right and wrong when they couldn’t before.”
A success story
Margie and Steven Lauder of Plano, TX worried that something was wrong with their son Michael from the time he was a year old. He was frightened of the color red, notes Margie, and showed a disturbing lack of focus on himself. “You could give him a toy and he’d want to share it right away. He was more interested in whether the other kids had enough toys than whether he had one. We knew something wasn’t right.”
But that strange behavior erupted in a full-blown disorder last summer when the Lauder’s took their four children to a GOP-sponsored rally in support of the president. “Michael screamed and cried like he was in pain,” says Margie. “He cried for so long that he made himself sick. That’s how we knew that something was really wrong.”
The diagnosis of EOPD came soon after, and late last year Michael underwent laser therapy on his pre-frontal cortex at a Houston-area hospital. The transformation, notes Margie Lauder, was dramatic and immediate. “Now he’s just like the other kids. He wants to be the one with the most toys, and he doesn’t cry when he sees President Bush on TV.”