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J Psychosom Res. 2014 Nov;77(5):391-400. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2014.09.005. Epub 2014 Sep 16.

Personality traits modulate subcortical and cortical vestibular and anxiety responses to sound-evoked otolithic receptor stimulation.

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Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology, IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation, 00179, Rome, Italy; Centre of Space BioMedicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, 00173, Rome, Italy. Electronic address:
Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, University "Magna Graecia", Catanzaro, Italy.
Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA.
Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology, IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation, 00179, Rome, Italy; Centre of Space BioMedicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, 00173, Rome, Italy; Department of Systems Medicine, Neuroscience Section, University of Rome Tor Vergata, 00133 Rome, Italy.
Institute of Bioimaging and Molecular Physiology, National Research Council 88100, Catanzaro, Italy.



Strong links between anxiety, space-motion perception, and vestibular symptoms have been recognized for decades. These connections may extend to anxiety-related personality traits. Psychophysical studies showed that high trait anxiety affected postural control and visual scanning strategies under stress. Neuroticism and introversion were identified as risk factors for chronic subjective dizziness (CSD), a common psychosomatic syndrome. This study examined possible relationships between personality traits and activity in brain vestibular networks for the first time using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).


Twenty-six right-handed healthy individuals underwent fMRI during sound-evoked vestibular stimulation. Regional brain activity and functional connectivity measures were correlated with personality traits of the Five Factor Model (neuroticism, extraversion-introversion, openness, agreeableness, consciousness).


Neuroticism correlated positively with activity in the pons, vestibulo-cerebellum, and para-striate cortex, and negatively with activity in the supra-marginal gyrus. Neuroticism also correlated positively with connectivity between pons and amygdala, vestibulo-cerebellum and amygdala, inferior frontal gyrus and supra-marginal gyrus, and inferior frontal gyrus and para-striate cortex. Introversion correlated positively with amygdala activity and negatively with connectivity between amygdala and inferior frontal gyrus.


Neuroticism and introversion correlated with activity and connectivity in cortical and subcortical vestibular, visual, and anxiety systems during vestibular stimulation. These personality-related changes in brain activity may represent neural correlates of threat sensitivity in posture and gaze control mechanisms in normal individuals. They also may reflect risk factors for anxiety-related morbidity in patients with vestibular disorders, including previously observed associations of neuroticism and introversion with CSD.


Anxiety; Chronic subjective dizziness; Introversion; Neuroticism; Sound-evoked vestibular stimulation; fMRI

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