The five factors of personality and regional cortical variability in the baltimore longitudinal study of aging


  • Conflict of Interest: Paul Costa receives royalties for the NEO-PI-R.


Although personality changes have been associated with brain lesions and atrophy caused by neurodegenerative diseases and aging, neuroanatomical correlates of personality in healthy individuals and their stability over time have received relatively little investigation. In this study, we explored regional gray matter (GM) volumetric associations of the five-factor model of personality. Eighty-seven healthy older adults took the NEO Personality Inventory and had brain MRI at two time points 2 years apart. We performed GM segmentation followed by regional analysis of volumes examined in normalized space map creation and voxel based morphometry-type statistical inference in SPM8. We created a regression model including all five factors and important covariates. Next, a conjunction analysis identified associations between personality scores and GM volumes that were replicable across time, also using cluster-level Family-Wise-Error correction. Larger right orbitofrontal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices and rolandic operculum were associated with lower Neuroticism; larger left temporal, dorsolateral prefrontal, and anterior cingulate cortices with higher Extraversion; larger right frontopolar and smaller orbitofrontal and insular cortices with higher Openness; larger right orbitofrontal cortex with higher Agreeableness; larger dorsolateral prefrontal and smaller frontopolar cortices with higher Conscientiousness. In summary, distinct personality traits were associated with stable individual differences in GM volumes. As expected for higher-order traits, regions performing a large number of cognitive and affective functions were implicated. Our findings highlight personality-related variation that may be related to individual differences in brain structure that merit additional attention in neuroimaging research. Hum Brain Mapp 34:2829–2840, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.