This Is How Your Personality Impacts Your Brain Health

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Portrait of stylish young woman in black jacket looking confidently at camera on rural background.

Neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and dementia, affect millions of people around the world. Though there is no cure, researchers have pointed toward many risk factors, from lifestyle factors, to chronic diseases. But, according to scientists at the University of Geneva and the University Hospitals of Geneva, personality traits might also play a role. 

A study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging found specific personality traits which have protective effects on brain aging, and might delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease. 

These people might have healthier brains. 

Researchers evaluated a group of 65 men and women who were at least 65 years old. Using brain imaging scans, as well as personality and cognitive assessments, they linked five personality traits to a well-protected brain. 

  1. Low agreeability
  2. Naturally curious
  3. Non-conformist 
  4. Confrontational 
  5. Open-minded 

Adults matching those descriptions showed lower volume loss in the hippocampus, amygdala, mesial temporal lobe, and two other brain regions associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The memory circuits within those regions stayed healthy and intact, compared to people with more agreeable personalities. 

“We already knew that the desire to learn and interest in the world around us protects against cerebral ageing.,” said lead researcher, Panteleimon Giannakopoulos, M.D. But why are the other protective qualities more negative?

It raises the question, Giannakopoulos said, “do we adapt to others at our own expense?" 

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Why does this matter?

Early identification is essential to help manage and fight diseases, so discovering biomarkers for AD—like personality traits—can help lead to treatment options. 

Though lifestyle changes, like a healthy diet and exercise, can help protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases, it’s clear that personality might also play a role. 

"If it seems difficult to profoundly change one's personality, especially at an advanced age,” the authors wrote,” taking it into account can be helpful for creating personalized treatments. “It’s an important part of a complex puzzle.”

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