The Big Five of Personality and structural imaging revisited: A VBM - DARTEL study

Wei Yin Liu, Bernd Weber, Martin Reuter, Sebastian Markett, Woei Chyn Chu, Christian Montag*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The present study focuses on the neurostructural foundations of the human personality. In a large sample of 227 healthy human individuals (168 women and 59 men), we used MRI to examine the relationship between personality traits and both regional gray and white matter volume, while controlling for age and sex. Personality was assessed using the German version of the NEO Five-Factor Inventory that measures individual differences in the 'Big Five of Personality': extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience. In contrast to most previous studies on neural correlates of the Big Five, we used improved processing strategies: white and gray matter were independently assessed by segmentation steps before data analysis. In addition, customized sex-specific diffeomorphic anatomical registration using exponentiated lie algebra templates were used. Our results did not show significant correlations between any dimension of the Big Five and regional gray matter volume. However, among others, higher conscientiousness scores correlated significantly with reductions in regional white matter volume in different brain areas, including the right insula, putamen, caudate, and left fusiformis. These correlations were driven by the female subsample. The present study suggests that many results from the literature on the neurostructural basis of personality should be reviewed carefully, considering the results when the sample size is larger, imaging methods are rigorously applied, and sex-related and age-related effects are controlled.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-380
Number of pages6
Issue number7
StatePublished - 8 May 2013


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