Researchers Link Personality and the Aging Brain

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

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • katie


    April 28th, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    although the physical size of our brains is the last thing that would bother us,I feel great to know that a stress-free life actually helps you age with a better quality of brain health.I have always followed this and try and avoid stress as much as i can :)

  • Regina


    April 29th, 2010 at 2:29 AM

    aaahhh stress and the many ways that it can impact your health negatively. Gives me such motivation to really aspire to live a more stress free life because if everything i read here is true, then I will feel much better mentally as well as physically for a longer amount of time if I find ways to knock stress out of my life.

  • Steve R.H

    Steve R.H

    April 29th, 2010 at 7:14 AM

    Aging,not only of the brain,but in general is definitely related to a person’s personality.Come to think of it-we always expect optimistic people to live longer than pessimists and hence forth.this is because its not only the physical aspects that determine a person’s lifespan but also his mental status,which is in turn influenced by the person’s thinking and personality.

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