Brain Thickness May Determine Key Parts of Your Personality

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Your personality traits may be linked to the thickness and volume of different parts of your brain, according to an international study.

The study, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, found that people with thicker and less-wrinkled outer layers of the brain generally had more neurotic tendencies, whereas people who were more open-minded tended to have thinner outer brain layers.

Scientists from the UK, United States and Italy examined in detail brain scans of 500 healthy volunteers between the ages of 22 and 36 years old. The participants were also asked to fill out questionnaires designed to assess the so-called ‘Big Five’ personality traits: neuroticism (how moody a person is), extraversion (how enthusiastic a person is), openness (how open-minded a person is), agreeableness (a measure of altruism), and conscientiousness (a measure of self-control).

 

The researchers were able to determine that different traits were linked to the overall volume of the brain, the thickness of the cortex (the outer layer of the brain), and how folded the cortex was.

Related: MRI Scans Show the Brain Can ‘Rust’

“Linking how brain structure is related to basic personality traits is a crucial step to improving our understanding of the link between the brain morphology and particular mood, cognitive or behavioral disorders,” researcher Dr. Luca Passamonti from Cambridge University said. “We also need to have a better understanding of the relation between brain structure and function in healthy people to figure out what is different in people with neuropsychiatric disorders.”

Researchers hope their findings can help the medical community understand more about mental health over time. However, the scientists admit that there needs to be more research done to affirm their conclusions.

Related: Forget Something? Your Brain May Be ‘Resting’

This is not the first study this group of researchers published on the links between brain structure and behavior. They previously found that the brains of teenagers with antisocial behavior problems are dramatically different from the brain structures of their peers.

Danielle Tarasiuk
Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.