FSU College of Medicine research links personality traits to characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease
Newswise – New research from Florida State University College of Medicine has found that brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease are often visible early on in people with personality traits associated with the disease.
The study focused on two traits previously linked to dementia risk: neuroticism, which measures a predisposition to negative emotions, and consciousness, which measures the tendency to be cautious, organized, goal-oriented and responsible.
âWe did studies showing who is at risk for developing dementia, but those other studies were about clinical diagnosis,â said Antonio Terracciano, professor of geriatrics at the College of Medicine. âHere we are looking at neuropathology; that is, lesions in the brain that tell us about the underlying pathological change. This study shows that even before clinical dementia, the personality predicts the accumulation of pathologies associated with dementia.
The results, published as an online press article with Biological Psychiatry and also available via FSU open access research repository, combine data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) and previously published work in a meta-analysis summarizing 12 studies on Alzheimer’s personality and neuropathology. The combined studies included more than 3,000 participants. Combining the results between studies provides more robust estimates of associations between personality and neuropathology than a single individual study can usually provide.
In the BLSA and meta-analysis, researchers found more deposits of amyloid and tau (the proteins responsible for the plaques and tangles that characterize Alzheimer’s disease) in participants who had a higher neuroticism score. and less in conscience.
The team also found that the associations were stronger in studies of cognitively normal people compared to studies that included people with cognitive problems.
The results suggest that personality may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological diseases by delaying or preventing the emergence of neuropathology for people who are strong in consciousness and weak in neuroticism.
âSuch protection against neuropathology can come from a lifelong difference in people’s emotions and behaviors,â Terracciano said. âFor example, previous research has shown that low neuroticism helps manage stress and reduces the risk of common mental health disorders. Likewise, a high level of consciousness is consistently linked to healthy lifestyles, such as physical activity. Over time, more adaptive personality traits may better support metabolic and immunological functions, and ultimately prevent or delay the process of neurodegeneration.
The BLSA is a scientific study of human aging conducted by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which began in 1958. Personality was measured using a test five-factor personality assessment, the most common personality assessment tool. At the time of enrollment in the BLSA neuroimaging substudy, all participants were free from dementia or other serious medical conditions.
Advances in brain scan technology used to assess amyloid and tau neuropathology in vivo allowed researchers to complete this work.
âUntil recently, researchers measured amyloid and tau in the brain by autopsy – after people died,â Terracciano said. âIn recent years, advances in medical imaging have made it possible to assess neuropathology when people are still alive, even before they show any symptoms. “
This research was supported by the NIA Intramural Research Program and by the NIA / NIH award numbers R01AG068093 and R01AG053297. The content is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official opinions of the National Institutes of Health.
Other authors include Professor Angelina Sutin of FSU College of Medicine, Assistant Professor Martina Luchetti and postdoctoral researcher Damaris Aschwanden. The other co-authors are from NIA, Johns Hopkins University, Washington University School of Medicine, and University of Montpellier.