Regional gray matter density associated with emotional intelligence: evidence from voxel-based morphometry

Hum Brain Mapp. 2011 Sep;32(9):1497-510. doi: 10.1002/hbm.21122. Epub 2010 Aug 25.


Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to monitor one's own and others' emotions and the ability to use the gathered information to guide one's thinking and action. EI is thought to be important for social life making it a popular subject of research. However, despite the existence of previous functional imaging studies on EI, the relationship between regional gray matter morphology and EI has never been investigated. We used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and a questionnaire (Emotional Intelligence Scale) to measure EI to identify the gray matter correlates of each factor of individual EI (Intrapersonal factor, Interpersonal factor, Situation Management factor). We found significant negative relationships between the Intrapersonal factor and regional gray matter density (rGMD) (1-a) in an anatomical cluster that included the right anterior insula, (1-b) in the right cerebellum, (1-c) in an anatomical cluster that extends from the cuneus to the precuneus, (1-d) and in an anatomical cluster that extends from the medial prefrontal cortex to the left lateral fronto-polar cortex. We also found significant positive correlations between the Interpersonal factor and rGMD in the right superior temporal sulcus, and significant negative correlations between the Situation Management factor and rGMD in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. These findings suggest that each factor of EI in healthy young people is related to the specific brain regions known to be involved in the networks of social cognition and self-related recognition, and in the somatic marker circuitry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Emotional Intelligence / physiology*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Intelligence
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult