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Neuroimage. 2018 Aug 1;176:22-28. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.04.033. Epub 2018 Apr 14.

Widespread associations between trait conscientiousness and thickness of brain cortical regions.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK. Electronic address: gary.lewis@rhul.ac.uk.
2
Scottish Imaging Network, A Platform for Scientific Excellence (SINAPSE) Collaboration, Glasgow, UK; Brain Research Imaging Centre, Neuroimaging Sciences, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, EH4 2XU, UK.
3
Scottish Imaging Network, A Platform for Scientific Excellence (SINAPSE) Collaboration, Glasgow, UK; Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ, UK; Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ, UK.
4
Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital and Douglas Mental Health University Institute (S.K.), McGill University, Canada.
5
Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ, UK; Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ, UK.
6
Scottish Imaging Network, A Platform for Scientific Excellence (SINAPSE) Collaboration, Glasgow, UK; Brain Research Imaging Centre, Neuroimaging Sciences, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, EH4 2XU, UK; Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ, UK.
7
Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ, UK; Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ, UK.

Abstract

The neural correlates of human personality have been of longstanding interest; however, most studies in the field have relied on modest sample sizes and few replicable results have been reported to date. We investigated relationships between personality and brain gray matter in a sample of generally healthy, older (mean age 73 years) adults from Scotland drawn from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936. Participants (N = 578) completed a brain MRI scan and self-reported Big Five personality trait measures. Conscientiousness trait scores were positively related to brain cortical thickness in a range of regions, including bilateral parahippocampal gyrus, bilateral fusiform gyrus, left cingulate gyrus, right medial orbitofrontal cortex, and left dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. These associations - most notably in frontal regions - were modestly-to-moderately attenuated by the inclusion of biomarker variables assessing allostatic load and smoking status. None of the other personality traits showed robust associations with brain cortical thickness, nor did we observe any personality trait associations with cortical surface area and gray matter volume. These findings indicate that brain cortical thickness is associated with conscientiousness, perhaps partly accounted for by allostatic load and smoking status.

KEYWORDS:

Allostatic load; Brain; Conscientiousness; Cortical thickness; Neuroanatomy; Personality

PMID:
29665419
PMCID:
PMC5986708
DOI:
10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.04.033
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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