Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Brain correlates of behavioral traits

A nice study from DeYoung et al. finds, among other things, that extraverts tend to have a larger-than-average orbitofrontal cortex, the region that sits behind the eyes and is especially active when the brain registers rewards. The 'new theory...'  described in their article is no big deal, it involves some reasonable arguments about what brain regions could reasonably be expected to be associated with fundamental behavioral traits such as extraversion, neuroticism, etc :
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.

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