Functional connectome of the five-factor model of personality

21 Jun 2018

A key objective of the emerging field of personality neuroscience is to link the great variety of the enduring dispositions of human behaviour with reliable markers of brain function. This can be achieved by analyzing large sets of data with methods that model whole-brain connectivity patterns. To meet these expectations, we exploited a large repository of personality and neuroimaging measures made publicly available via the Human Connectome Project. Using connectomic analyses based on graph theory, we computed global and local indices of functional connectivity (e.g., nodal strength, efficiency, clustering, betweenness centrality) and related these metrics to the five-factor-model (FFM) personality traits (i.e., neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness). The maximal information coefficient was used to assess for linear and non-linear statistical dependencies across the graph ‘nodes’, which were defined as distinct brain circuits identified via independent component analysis. Multi-variate regression models and ‘train/test’ machine-learning approaches were also used to examine the associations between FFM traits and connectomic indices as well as to test for the generalizability of the main findings, whilst accounting for age and sex differences. Conscientiousness was the sole FFM trait linked to measures of higher functional connectivity in the fronto-parietal and default mode networks. This might provide a mechanistic explanation of the behavioural observation that conscientious people are reliable and efficient in goal-setting or planning. Our study provides new inputs to understanding the neurological basis of personality and contributes to the development of more realistic models of the brain dynamics that mediate personality differences.