How the brain is affected as people age has been a line of inquiry in psychology for quite some time, with professionals from neuroscientists to geriatric specialists and therapists interested in uncovering the ways in which the brain changes as people row old. Recently, a study carried out at Washington University in St. Louis has found that personality may be a powerful component of the size of the aging brain, a find that could have exciting implications for future study.
The researchers worked with a group of nearly eighty participants who ranged in age from forty four to eighty eight, and all were asked to answer questions to determine their personality types as well as basic demographic information. The participants then received brain scans, and researchers compared the size of two regions to the types of personalities collected, finding that different personality aspects seemed to have a measurable impact on region size. The frontal and medial temporal regions of the brain along with the orbitofrontal cortex were measured based on their association with memory, emotion, and attention, factors that often play heavily into the experience of aging.
Upon comparison, researchers found that those participants who were indicated as having a neurotic personality type exhibited smaller scanned brain regions than those who were identified as being conscientious. A third personality type, that of extroversion, was studied, but results were not clear for this particular group. The results suggest that experiencing a greater amount of stress, or dealing with it in less effective ways, may have a negative impact on brain health and quality later in life. Researchers involved with the project have noted that the aging brain may itself be responsible for personality changes, and state that further research to determine causality is planned.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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