Your personality can protect or age your brain, study finds
According to a study published Monday in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, being more conscientious and outgoing helps keep mild cognitive impairment at bay for longer, while high levels of neuroticism increase the risk of cognitive decline.
“Personality traits reflect relatively enduring patterns of thought and behavior, which can cumulatively affect engagement in healthy and unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns across the lifespan,” said the lead author. Tomiko Yoneda, postdoctoral student in psychology at the University of Victoria in Canada. statement.
“The accumulation of experiences across the lifespan may then contribute to susceptibility to particular diseases or disorders, such as mild cognitive impairment, or contribute to individual differences in the ability to resist neurological changes related to life. age,” she said.
Although this association is seen in clinical practice, it’s unclear what is “the chicken or the egg,” said Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Clinic at the Center. for Brain Health from Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University.
“Specific traits may increase risk due to a lifetime of behaviors that predispose a person to developing cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s disease, or there could be a more direct biological role related to the early pathology of the disease. “said Isaacson, who was not involved in the study.
“Neuroticism is specifically a trait that comes to mind for me, and past meta-analyses have also shown this. Rumination and worry are linked to smaller brain volumes,” he said in an email. “It’s not clear if the stress/neuroinflammation pathway is driving this. A biomarker doesn’t really exist for this, so it’s hard to prove.”
Main personality traits
The study analyzed the personalities of nearly 2,000 people who participated in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a longitudinal study of Chicago-area older adults that began in 1997. The study examined the role of three traits personality traits: conscientiousness, extroversion and neuroticism. – about how people resisted cognitive decline later in life.
Neuroticism is a personality trait that affects how a person handles stress. Neurotic people approach life in a state of anxiety, anger, and self-consciousness and often see minor frustrations as hopelessly overwhelming or threatening.
Conscientious people tend to have high levels of self-discipline and are organized and goal-directed, Yoneda said, while extroverts are enthusiastic about life and often assertive and outgoing.
People with a high conscientiousness score or a low neuroticism score were significantly less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment during the study, Yoneda said.
Every six additional points a person scored on a conscientiousness scale was “associated with a 22% decrease in the risk of going from normal cognitive functioning to mild cognitive impairment,” Yoneda said.
This could translate to a highly conscientious 80-year-old living two years longer without cognitive problems compared to those with low conscientiousness, according to the study.
According to the study, being more outgoing and socially engaged appears to provide an extra year of dementia-free life. It also enhanced a person’s ability to regain normal cognitive function after being previously diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, possibly due to the benefits of socialization.
However, as levels of neuroticism increased, the risk of transitioning to cognitive decline also increased: Every additional seven points on the scale “was associated with a 12% increased risk,” Yoneda said, which could be result in the loss of at least one year of healthy life. cognition.
This study is not the first to show a link between personality and brain function.