Widespread associations between trait conscientiousness and thickness of brain cortical regions

Lewis, G. J., Dickie, D. A. , Cox, S. R., Karama, S., Evans, A. C., Starr, J. M., Bastin, M. E., Wardlaw, J. M. and Deary, I. J. (2018) Widespread associations between trait conscientiousness and thickness of brain cortical regions. NeuroImage, 176, pp. 22-28. (doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.04.033) (PMID:29665419) (PMCID:PMC5986708)

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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.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work was supported by a Research into Ageing programme grant (I.J.D. and J.M.S.) and the Age UK-funded Disconnected Mind project (I.J.D., J.M.S., and J.M.W.), with additional funding from the UK Medical Research Council (I.J.D., J.M.S., J.M.W., and M.E.B.) under grant numbers G0701120, G1001245, and MR/M013111/1. J. M. W. is supported by the Scottish Funding Council through the SINAPSE Collaboration (http://www.sinapse.ac.uk). The work was undertaken within The University of Edinburgh Brain Research Imaging Centre, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, and Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology (http://www.ccace.ed.ac.uk), part of the cross council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Initiative (MR/K026992/1). Funding from the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council are gratefully acknowledged.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Dickie, Dr David Alexander
Authors: Lewis, G. J., Dickie, D. A., Cox, S. R., Karama, S., Evans, A. C., Starr, J. M., Bastin, M. E., Wardlaw, J. M., and Deary, I. J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences
Journal Name:NeuroImage
ISSN (Online):1095-9572
Published Online:14 April 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 The Authors
First Published:First published in NeuroImage 176:22-28
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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