The modulating effect of personality traits on neural error monitoring: evidence from event-related FMRI

PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42930. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042930. Epub 2012 Aug 22.


The present study investigated the association between traits of the Five Factor Model of Personality (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness for Experiences, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness) and neural correlates of error monitoring obtained from a combined Eriksen-Flanker-Go/NoGo task during event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging in 27 healthy subjects. Individual expressions of personality traits were measured using the NEO-PI-R questionnaire. Conscientiousness correlated positively with error signaling in the left inferior frontal gyrus and adjacent anterior insula (IFG/aI). A second strong positive correlation was observed in the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACC). Neuroticism was negatively correlated with error signaling in the inferior frontal cortex possibly reflecting the negative inter-correlation between both scales observed on the behavioral level. Under present statistical thresholds no significant results were obtained for remaining scales. Aligning the personality trait of Conscientiousness with task accomplishment striving behavior the correlation in the left IFG/aI possibly reflects an inter-individually different involvement whenever task-set related memory representations are violated by the occurrence of errors. The strong correlations in the ACC may indicate that more conscientious subjects were stronger affected by these violations of a given task-set expressed by individually different, negatively valenced signals conveyed by the ACC upon occurrence of an error. Present results illustrate that for predicting individual responses to errors underlying personality traits should be taken into account and also lend external validity to the personality trait approach suggesting that personality constructs do reflect more than mere descriptive taxonomies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / pathology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neurotic Disorders / physiopathology
  • Personality / physiology*
  • Psychometrics
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult

Grant support

No current external funding sources for this study.