Trait neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness in multiple sclerosis: Link to cognitive impairment?

Mult Scler. 2018 Feb;24(2):205-213. doi: 10.1177/1352458517695467. Epub 2017 Feb 1.


Background: Previous research suggests that patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) have higher neuroticism, lower extraversion, and lower conscientiousness relative to healthy controls (HCs). However, the prevalence of this maladaptive profile in MS and its relation to cognition is unknown.

Objective: Determine prevalence of maladaptive personality among MS patients, compared to HCs, and examine how it relates to cognitive dysfunction.

Methods: A sample of 275 MS patients and 55 HCs completed neuroperformance measures of information processing speed and memory. Self and informant ratings were obtained on the NEO Five-Factor Inventory.

Results: MS patients had higher neuroticism and lower extraversion than HCs. Cognitively impaired patients were also lower in conscientiousness. Cluster analysis revealed a configuration of these same three traits, representing a maladaptive profile. This profile was found in 50% of the overall MS sample, compared to 24% of HCs. However, only cognitively impaired MS patients had a higher prevalence of maladaptive personality compared to HCs. Among cognitively impaired patients, those with maladaptive traits were impaired in more cognitive domains than those with more adaptive traits.

Conclusion: Cognitively impaired MS patients have a higher prevalence of seemingly maladaptive traits compared to HCs, demonstrating an association between cognition and personality in MS.

Keywords: Multiple sclerosis; cognitive impairment; personality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology*
  • Conscience*
  • Extraversion, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Neuroticism*
  • Personality / physiology*