A team of scientists has announced a breakthrough in therapies that could someday be used to treat so-called deeply held personal beliefs. The therapies, known as VOX III inhibitors, target the area of the brain responsible for generating strong opinions and have already shown promising results when tested upon lab rats and on human subjects at either end of the political spectrum.
At last, a pharmaceutical cure for partisanship?
By Hermione Slatkin, Health and Science Correspondent
CAMBRIDGE, MA—Three months ago, retail manager Lou Beamer met the girl of his dreams. She was attractive, a solid wage earner and shared his love for movies and long walks on the beach. But there was a problem. 'Sarah' was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, the notorious organization of secularists that seeks to strip all references of God from public life.
"As soon as she told me, I knew that our relationship was over," says Beamer, who has since met someone whom he terms 'the woman of his dreams' through the Christian Singles Network. "She said those four letters, 'ACLU,' and I thought to myself 'I'm through with you.'"
Treating 'deeply held personal beliefs'
But what if there were a drug to help 'Sarah' overcome her secularist views? Or even better, a treatment that Mr. Beamer could take in order to temper his extreme aversion to secularists? The benefits, say experts, are obvious. Heterosexual couples like Beamer and 'Sarah' could someday sustain long-term relationships, even marriages. And the drugs could be used to heal the country's increasingly bitter partisan divide.
From lab to lobe
The new therapies, called VOX III inhibitors, work by targeting the portion of the brain responsible for generating strong opinions. Scientists have spent years developing the therapies, which they began testing upon laboratory rats. They initially divided their rodent subjects into three groups: so-called 'liberal' rats who were fed a steady diet of National Public Radio programming, 'conservative' rats, into whose cages was piped a mix of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and a control group for which the scientists played their own personal i-Pod collections.
After just three weeks of the selective programming, the channels were changed. For the partisan rats, says Dr. Wilson Reich, who oversaw the experiment, that switch was profound and painful—until they begin receiving an intraveneous drip direct to their frontal lobes, containing the VOX III inhibiting substance. "Then it was like we were dealing with a different group of rats entirely. The conservative rats could listen to NPR all day and you wouldn't see as much as a twitch," says Reich. "The possibilities for people were immediately obvious to all of us standing in the lab that day."
Ask your doctor if a VOX III inhibitor is right for you
The scientists are currently negotiating to sell their idea to a major drug company, and experiments on human subjects, many of whom have been diagnosed with political paranoia, are already underway. But while existing treatments for political disorders are confined to liberal diseases, experts say that the promise of the VOX III drug class lies precisely in its bipartisanship.
"I see patients all the time who are literally kept from living a useful life because of their deeply held personal beliefs," says Chicago therapist Lee Wichman, L.C.P.C. "They're such strong supporters of private Social Security accounts that they can't sleep. Or they end up losing their job because of their strong commitment to Darwinism. A drug like this might enable them to one day contribute to society."
Are you a candidate for a drug that treats deeply held beliefs? Ask your doctor, and talk back to [email protected]