Those who are interested in psychology, know the “Big Five” personality traits: agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness and extraversion. Researchers of a recent study were curious whether 3 of these personality traits (conscientiousness, neuroticism and extraversion) somehow are related to our brain functioning later in life.

Conscientious people tend to be responsible, well organized, hard-working and high self-disciplined. Representatives of neuroticism have low emotional stability and have a tendency toward mood swings, anxiety, depression, and other negative feelings. On the other hand, extraverts are characterized as being open, enthusiastic, talkative and assertive.

The results of the study showed that people, who scored either high on conscientiousness, or extraversion, or low in neuroticism, were significantly less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment while ageing.

To give you an example from the study, 80-year-old participants who were high in conscientiousness were estimated to live nearly 2 years longer without cognitive impairment compared with individuals who were low in conscientiousness. Extravert participants seemed to maintain healthy brains 1 year longer, while those with high neuroticism, started to suffer from cognitive decline at least 1 year earlier.

Another interesting conclusion concerns the ability to recover from mild cognitive impairment. People with lower in neuroticism and higher extraversion had good chances in that. Indirectly this highlights the role of social interaction to keep your brain healthy.

The researchers suggested that personality traits reflect the way we think and behave, which might end up in either healthy or unhealthy behaviors throughout our life and may then contribute to our resilience to age-related neurological changes.

To come to this conclusion, researchers analyzed information from 1.954 primarily white (87%), female (74%) and highly educated participants without a formal diagnosis of dementia in the Rush Memory and Aging Project. Participants received a personality assessment and annual assessments of their cognitive abilities.

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Tatsiana Haponava, PhD

a certified nutrition coach, educator and researcher with a PhD degree

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