Findings suggesting that some major aspects of our personalities are determined by structural differences in our brains are being presented at the 2007 OHBM annual conference.
Anatomical bases of personality traits, a collaborative study between the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy and the University of Hull in the UK, investigated whether factors like novelty seeking, dependence on reward and avoidance of harm could be correlated with parts of the brain that, when damaged, cause changes in people?s character and behaviour.
85 young people completed a personality questionnaire and had their brain scanned with 3D Magnetic Resonance Imaging for the study. It was found that people with high levels of novelty seeking had a more developed inferior part of the frontal lobe, above the eye sockets. In contrast, participants with a less developed cingulate gyrus, the midline inner surface of the brain, had high levels of timidity, approval-seeking behaviours and greater tendency to seek gratification from external sources such as food or drugs.
Despite their apparent complexities, this study suggests that the investigated personality traits have corresponding associations with specific brain structures. Variations in the amount of brain tissue within the inferior part of the frontal lobe are linked to the degree of novelty seeking as a feature of a personality. Variations in the cingulate gyrus are linked to timidity and dependence on external gratification.
Authors Gardini, Bird, Toraci, Nocetti, Nichelli and Venneri conclude that aspects of our personalities are imprinted on our brains as structural differences.