Certain personality traits linked to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

October 13, 2021
Certain personality traits linked to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Two distinct personality traits predict the accumulation of pathology associated with dementia, say researchers from the Florida State University (FSU) College of Medicine, US: neuroticism, which measures a predisposition for negative emotions; and conscientiousness, which measures the tendency to be careful, organised, goal-directed and responsible.

The research combined data from 3,000 participants from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) and previously published work in a meta-analysis that summarised 12 studies on personality and Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology. Personality was measured using a five-factor personality test, the most common personality assessment tool. At the time of their enrollment in the BLSA neuroimaging sub-study, all participants were free of dementia or other severe medical conditions.

Advances in brain scan technology made it possible to assess in vivo amyloid and tau neuropathology as well (researchers previously measured amyloid and tau in the brain through autopsy).

FSU’s latest study provides more robust estimates of the associations between personality and Alzheimer’s than older studies that only looked at the clinical diagnoses related to the condition – researchers found that participants who scored higher in neuroticism and lower in conscientiousness harbored more amyloid and tau deposits (the proteins responsible for the plaques and tangles that characterise Alzheimer’s).

The researchers also found risk associations to be stronger in studies of cognitively normal people compared to studies that included people with cognitive problems.

The findings suggest that personality can help protect against Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases by delaying or preventing the emergence of neuropathology for those strong in conscientiousness and low in neuroticism.

“…low neuroticism helps with managing stress and reduces the risk of common mental health disorders. Similarly, high conscientiousness is consistently related to healthy lifestyles, like physical activity,” said Antonio Terracciano, professor of geriatrics at FSU.

“Over time, more adaptive personality traits can better support metabolic and immunological functions, and ultimately prevent or delay the neurodegeneration process.”

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Category: Education, Features

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