For decades, researchers have mined through many theories of how personality traits affect the human brain. But, interestingly enough, for the first time, the shape of a human brain is being considered as a factor in determining personality.
According to a new study, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, the particular shape of a brain can provide clues on our behavioral traits and the risk of developing a mental illness.
As part of a team of international researchers, specifically from the United States, United Kingdom, and Italy, Florida State University Professor Antonio Terracciano analyzed the association between personality attributes and brain structure. Researchers examined the differences in the outer part of the brain, known as the cortex, utilizing several factors, including thickness, area, and the amount of folding in the cortex, according to HuffPost.
The primary objective was to figure out which relation the cortex has with the five major personality traits.
In case you are unfamiliar with the five personality traits: neuroticism, negative mental state; extraversion, sociable and enthusiastic; openness, open-mindedness; agreeableness, altruism and cooperativeness; and conscientiousness, self-control and ambitious.
In the study, an imaging dataset of over 500 participants was released by the Human Connectome Project in an effort to highlight neural pathways synonymous with brain function.
“Evolution has shaped our brain anatomy in a way that maximizes its area and folding by reducing thickness of the cortex,” said Luca Passamonti, one of the lead researchers.
“It’s like stretching and folding a rubber sheet — this increases the surface area, but at the same time the sheet itself becomes thinner. We refer to this as the ‘cortical stretching hypothesis.”
Passamonti concluded by stating: “Understanding the ‘healthy’ brain and more specifically how variability across personality traits relate to brain structural measures as thickness, area, and folding may help us to develop a better model to understand and consequently treat the diseased brain.”