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Brain Res Bull. 2009 Jun 30;79(5):265-70. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2009.03.005. Epub 2009 Mar 28.

Individual differences in personality traits reflect structural variance in specific brain regions.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Parma, Italy; Clinical Neuroscience Centre, University of Hull, United Kingdom.


Personality dimensions such as novelty seeking (NS), harm avoidance (HA), reward dependence (RD) and persistence (PER) are said to be heritable, stable across time and dependent on genetic and neurobiological factors. Recently a better understanding of the relationship between personality traits and brain structures/systems has become possible due to advances in neuroimaging techniques. This Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) study investigated if individual differences in these personality traits reflected structural variance in specific brain regions. A large sample of eighty five young adult participants completed the Three-dimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ) and had their brain imaged with MRI. A voxel-based correlation analysis was carried out between individuals' personality trait scores and grey matter volume values extracted from 3D brain scans. NS correlated positively with grey matter volume in frontal and posterior cingulate regions. HA showed a negative correlation with grey matter volume in orbito-frontal, occipital and parietal structures. RD was negatively correlated with grey matter volume in the caudate nucleus and in the rectal frontal gyrus. PER showed a positive correlation with grey matter volume in the precuneus, paracentral lobule and parahippocampal gyrus. These results indicate that individual differences in the main personality dimensions of NS, HA, RD and PER, may reflect structural variance in specific brain areas.

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