Introduction: Brain imaging studies have linked the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) to motivation, drive, and personality traits like novelty and sensation seeking. Animal studies have shown glutamatergic neurotransmission to be important in ACC function as well as motivated behaviour. However, the role of glutamate in related personality traits like sensation seeking has not been investigated in humans.
Methods: The associations between sensation seeking personality scores and absolute glutamate concentrations in the ACC and the hippocampal region measured by 3-Tesla proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) were investigated.
Results: ACC glutamate concentration was negatively correlated with the sensation seeking sum score and the experience seeking subscore. A weak negative correlation was also observed between the hippocampal glutamate and the sensation seeking sum score. The reexamination of the glutamate concentration after 4 weeks revealed a similar relationship with sensation seeking.
Discussion: Although preliminary, the results are in line with the key role of the ACC for motivation and executive control and with the impact of glutamate on novelty related behaviour observed in animal experiments. The role of the hippocampus for novelty processing is discussed. Glutamate measurement with 1H-MRS may facilitate the understanding of biological underpinnings of personality traits and psychiatric diseases associated with dysfunctions in motivation and drive.