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Brain Res. 2011 Jan 31;1371:32-42. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.11.073. Epub 2010 Nov 29.

Individual differences in local gray and white matter volumes reflect differences in temperament and character: a voxel-based morphometry study in healthy young females.

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Department of Radiology, UZ Brussel, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Laarbeeklaan 101, 1090 Brussels, Belgium.


The psychobiological personality model of Cloninger distinguishes four heritable temperament traits (harm avoidance (HA), novelty seeking (NS), reward dependence (RD) and persistence (P)) and three character traits (self-directedness (SD), cooperativeness (CO) and self-transcendence (ST)) which develop during lifetime. Prior research already showed that individual differences in temperament are reflected in structural variances in specific brain areas. In this study, we used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to correlate the different temperament and character traits with local gray and white matter volumes (GMV and WMV) in young healthy female volunteers. We found correlations between the temperament traits and GMV and WMV in the frontal, temporal and limbic regions involved in controlling and generating the corresponding behavior as proposed in Cloninger's theory: anxious for HA, impulsive for NS, reward-directed for RD and goal-directed for P. The character traits correlated with GMV and WMV in the frontal, temporal and limbic regions involved in the corresponding cognitive tasks: self-reflection for SD, mentalizing and empathizing with others for CO and religious belief for ST. This study shows that individual variations in brain morphology can be related to the temperament and character dimensions, and lends support to the hypothesis of a neurobiological basis of personality traits.

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