Structural correlates of Openness and Intellect: Implications for the contribution of personality to creativity

Hum Brain Mapp. 2018 Jul;39(7):2987-2996. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24054. Epub 2018 Apr 15.


Openness/Intellect (i.e., openness to experience) is the Big Five personality factor most consistently associated with individual differences in creativity. Recent psychometric evidence has demonstrated that this factor consists of two distinct aspects-Intellect and Openness. Whereas Intellect reflects perceived intelligence and intellectual engagement, Openness reflects engagement with fantasy, perception, and aesthetics. We investigated the extent to which Openness and Intellect are associated with variations in brain structure as measured by cortical thickness, area, and volume (N = 185). Our results demonstrated that Openness was correlated inversely with cortical thickness and volume in left middle frontal gyrus (BA 6), middle temporal gyrus (MTG, BA 21), and superior temporal gyrus (BA 41), and exclusively with cortical thickness in left inferior parietal lobule (BA 40), right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG, BA 45), and MTG (BA 37). When age and sex were statistically controlled for, the inverse correlations between Openness and cortical thickness remained statistically significant for all regions except left MTG, whereas the correlations involving cortical volume remained statistically significant only for left middle frontal gyrus. There was no statistically significant correlation between Openness and cortical area, and no statistically significant correlation between Intellect and cortical thickness, area, or volume. Our results demonstrate that individual differences in Openness are correlated with variation in brain structure-particularly as indexed by cortical thickness. Given the involvement of the above regions in processes related to memory and cognitive control, we discuss the implications of our findings for the possible contribution of personality to creative cognition.

Keywords: Openness/Intellect; cortical thinning; creativity; personality neuroscience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Creativity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Personality / physiology*
  • Young Adult