Neuroanatomical correlates of personality in the elderly

Christopher I. Wright, Eric Feczko, Bradford Dickerson, Danielle Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Extraversion and neuroticism are two important and frequently studied dimensions of human personality. They describe individual differences in emotional responding that are quite stable across the adult lifespan. Neuroimaging research has begun to provide evidence that neuroticism and extraversion have specific neuroanatomical correlates within the cerebral cortex and amygdala of young adults. However, these brain areas undergo alterations in size with aging, which may influence the nature of these personality factor-brain structure associations in the elderly. One study in the elderly demonstrated associations between perisylvian cortex structure and measures of self transcendence [Kaasinen, V., Maguire, R.P., Kurki, T., Bruck, A., Rinne, J.O., 2005. Mapping brain structure and personality in late adulthood. NeuroImage 24, 315-322], but the neuroanatomical correlates of extraversion and neuroticism, or other measures of the Five Factor Model of personality have not been explored. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the structural correlates of neuroticism and extraversion in healthy elderly subjects (n = 29) using neuroanatomic measures of the cerebral cortex and amygdala. We observed that the thickness of specific lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) regions, but not amygdala volume, correlates with measures of extraversion and neuroticism. The results suggest differences in the regional neuroanatomic correlates of specific personality traits with aging. We speculate that this relates to the influences of age-related structural changes in the PFC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-272
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Bruce Fischl, Mary Foley, Katherine McMullin, Brian Quinn, and Larry White for technical assistance. This work was supported in part by NIMH grant K23MH64806 and NIA grant R01AG030311 (Dr. Wright), as well as resource grants to the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging from the NCRR (P41-RR14075), and the Mental Illness and Neuroscience Discovery (MIND) Institute.


  • Aging
  • Amygdala
  • Emotion
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Personality
  • Prefrontal cortex

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