Cortical atrophy and personality in multiple sclerosis

Neuropsychology. 2008 Jul;22(4):432-41. doi: 10.1037/0894-4105.22.4.432.


Although the cognitive disorder of multiple sclerosis (MS) is well characterized, little is known about personality changes that may occur in this disease. There are reliable personality tests available for research in neurological disease, based on the well-known Five Factor Model. Preliminary research suggests that cognitively impaired MS patients exhibit elevation in Neuroticism, and diminution in Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness, as do patients with Alzheimer's disease. We predicted that these characteristics would be associated with lower neocortical volume. We studied 44 patients using brain MRI and the NEO Five-Factor Inventory. Regression models controlling for T2 lesion volume, depression, and cognitive dysfunction revealed significant correlation between cortical atrophy and reduction in Extraversion and Conscientiousness. Discrepancies between patient- and informant-reports were found, and overreporting of high Openness and Conscientiousness among patients was associated with lower neocortical volume. A final regression model accounting for depression, cognitive function, and personality accounted for 38% of the variance in neocortical volume. These findings suggest that cortical atrophy in MS is associated with adverse impact on personality, although longitudinal research is needed to test this hypothesis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atrophy / etiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Personality Disorders / etiology
  • Personality Tests
  • Personality*
  • Regression Analysis