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Neural structural correlates of personality: What has aging got to do with it?
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology. ARC, Karolinska Institutet.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology. ARC, Karolinska Institutet.
2015 (English)Conference paper, Poster (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Introduction: Personality traits such as neuroticism and extraversion affect how we perceive and interact with the outer world. Hence, personality is an important component across the life-span. Little is known about the neural basis of personality, and how it is related to adult age-related variations (but see Wright et al., 2007). The current study investigates structural brain correlates of psychological measures of personality in a sample of younger (n= 30, 20-31 years) and older adults (n=30, 65-74 years) with an even gender distribution. Methods: The behavioural measures included neuroticism, extraversion and openness, assessed by a standard questionnaire (NEO-PI). Grey and white matter volumes were derived from gradient echo T1-weighted images from a 3 Tesla scanner. We selected brain regions of interest (ROIs) based on their theoretical and empirical relevance for the studied personality domains (see eg. Carrera et al., 2006, Fischer et al., 1997; Koelsch et al, 2013; Montag et al, 2013). The following ROIs were defined using voxel based morphology and the FreeSurfer software : the basal ganglia (BG) (caudate nucleus, putamen, globus pallidus), the thalamus (TH), amygdala (AM), and subcortical white matter in the insula (INw), the orbitofrontal region (OFw) and the anterior corpus callosum (aCC). We applied a series of structural equation models were each ROI was defined as a latent variable, represented by bi-hemispheric volumes, to predict personality and age related differences therein. Results: Larger volumes in the BG (p=.007) and TH (p = .000) were related to higher degree of neuroticism, but the association for BG was gone once age was accounted for (p =.401). The positive association between TH volumes and neuroticism was only significant in the older group (p = .003). Younger subjects with greater volumes in the aCC scored lower on openness (p = .001), while greater INw volumes predicted higher degree of neuroticism (p = .031). No significant associations were found between extraversion and the ROIs. OFw, or AM were not linked to personality. Conclusions: Our study highlights the role of the TH in relation to personality in older adults. The selective relationships between openness, neuroticism and white matter volumes in the younger participants may in part reflect late brain maturation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Minneapolis, MN, USA: Organization for Human Brain Mapping , 2015.
Keyword [en]
adults, aging, morphometrics, normal human, social interactions, structural MRI, sub-cortical thalamus, white matter
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-123549OAI: diva2:874665
21th Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) 2015. Honolulu, HI, USA, June 14-18, 2015.
Available from: 2015-11-27 Created: 2015-11-27 Last updated: 2015-11-27

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Persson, NinniPersson, JonasFischer, Håkan
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