Trait Conscientiousness and the Personality Meta-Trait Stability are Associated with Regional White Matter Microstructure

Gary Lewis

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Establishing the neural bases of individual differences in personality has been an enduring topic of interest. However, while a growing literature has sought to characterise grey matter correlates of personality traits, little attention to date has been focused on regional white matter correlates of personality, especially for the personality traits agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness. To rectify this gap in knowledge we used a large sample (n>550) of older adults who provided data on both personality (International Personality Item Pool: IPIP) and white matter tract-specific fractional anisotropy (FA) from diffusion tensor MRI. Results indicated that conscientiousness was associated with greater FA in the left uncinate fasciculus (β = .17, p < .001). We also examined links between FA and the personality meta-trait 'stability', which is defined as the common variance underlying agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism/emotional stability. We observed an association between left uncinate fasciculus FA and stability (β = .27, p <.001), which fully accounted for the link between left uncinate fasciculus FA and conscientiousness. In sum, these results provide novel evidence for links between regional white matter microstructure and key traits of human personality, specifically conscientiousness and the meta-trait, stability. Future research is recommended to replicate and address the causal directions of these associations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Early online date24 Mar 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Mar 2016

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