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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2017 Apr 1;12(4):671-684. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsw175.

Surface-based morphometry reveals the neuroanatomical basis of the five-factor model of personality.

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Department of Medical & Surgical Sciences, University "Magna Graecia", Catanzaro, Italy.
Department of Biomedicine & Prevention, University "Tor Vergata", Rome, Italy.
Department of Radiology, Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Boston & Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Institute of Bioimaging & Molecular Physiology, National Research Council, Catanzaro, Italy.
Department of Geriatrics, Florida State University College of Medicine, Tallahassee, FL, USA.
Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


The five-factor model (FFM) is a widely used taxonomy of human personality; yet its neuro anatomical basis remains unclear. This is partly because past associations between gray-matter volume and FFM were driven by different surface-based morphometry (SBM) indices (i.e. cortical thickness, surface area, cortical folding or any combination of them). To overcome this limitation, we used Free-Surfer to study how variability in SBM measures was related to the FFM in n = 507 participants from the Human Connectome Project.Neuroticism was associated with thicker cortex and smaller area and folding in prefrontal-temporal regions. Extraversion was linked to thicker pre-cuneus and smaller superior temporal cortex area. Openness was linked to thinner cortex and greater area and folding in prefrontal-parietal regions. Agreeableness was correlated to thinner prefrontal cortex and smaller fusiform gyrus area. Conscientiousness was associated with thicker cortex and smaller area and folding in prefrontal regions. These findings demonstrate that anatomical variability in prefrontal cortices is linked to individual differences in the socio-cognitive dispositions described by the FFM. Cortical thickness and surface area/folding were inversely related each others as a function of different FFM traits (neuroticism, extraversion and consciousness vs openness), which may reflect brain maturational effects that predispose or protect against psychiatric disorders.


big five; cortical folding; cortical thickness; individual differences; surface area

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