The associations of personality traits with volume in predicted brain regions were generally consistent with the hypothesis that larger brain tissue volume is associated with increased function (with the exception of the negative association of Agreeableness with volume in superior temporal sulcus). For example, Neuroticism was positively associated with volume in a region of the cingulate linked to the detection of error and response to pain, both of which increase with Neuroticism. Also, Neuroticism was negatively associated with volume in a region of PFC associated with emotional regulation, which decreases with Neuroticism. However, our findings do not provide definitive evidence to allow generalizations about the relation of volume to function, and further research should target this question directly.
Psychological Science doi:10.1177/0956797610370159
Testing Predictions From Personality Neuroscience
Brain Structure and the Big Five
Colin G. DeYoung et al.
We used a new theory of the biological basis of the Big Five personality traits to generate hypotheses about the association of each trait with the volume of different brain regions. Controlling for age, sex, and whole-brain volume, results from structural magnetic resonance imaging of 116 healthy adults supported our hypotheses for four of the five traits: Extraversion, Neuroticism, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Extraversion covaried with volume of medial orbitofrontal cortex, a brain region involved in processing reward information. Neuroticism covaried with volume of brain regions associated with threat, punishment, and negative affect. Agreeableness covaried with volume in regions that process information about the intentions and mental states of other individuals. Conscientiousness covaried with volume in lateral prefrontal cortex, a region involved in planning and the voluntary control of behavior. These findings support our biologically based, explanatory model of the Big Five and demonstrate the potential of personality neuroscience (i.e., the systematic study of individual differences in personality using neuroscience methods) as a discipline.