Neuroticism and conscientiousness respectively constrain and facilitate short-term plasticity within the working memory neural network

Hum Brain Mapp. 2015 Oct;36(10):4158-63. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22906. Epub 2015 Jul 20.


Individual differences in cognitive efficiency, particularly in relation to working memory (WM), have been associated both with personality dimensions that reflect enduring regularities in brain configuration, and with short-term neural plasticity, that reflects task-related changes in brain connectivity. To elucidate the relationship of these two divergent mechanisms, we tested the hypothesis that personality dimensions, which reflect enduring aspects of brain configuration, inform about the neurobiological framework within which short-term, task-related plasticity, as measured by effective connectivity, can be facilitated or constrained. As WM consistently engages the dorsolateral prefrontal (DLPFC), parietal (PAR), and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), we specified a WM network model with bidirectional, ipsilateral, and contralateral connections between these regions from a functional magnetic resonance imaging dataset obtained from 40 healthy adults while performing the 3-back WM task. Task-related effective connectivity changes within this network were estimated using Dynamic Causal Modelling. Personality was evaluated along the major dimensions of Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Only two dimensions were relevant to task-dependent effective connectivity. Neuroticism and Conscientiousness respectively constrained and facilitated neuroplastic responses within the WM network. These results suggest individual differences in cognitive efficiency arise from the interplay between enduring and short-term plasticity in brain configuration.

Keywords: dynamic causal modelling; effective connectivity; personality; working memory.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Extraversion, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Neuroticism
  • Personality Tests
  • Personality*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time