The Personality Trait That Protects Against Brain Aging

Personality can help sustain thinking skills in the face of brain aging.

Personality can help sustain thinking skills in the face of brain aging.

A conscientious personality helps protect against brain aging, a study finds.

Conscientious people tend to be well-organised, self-disciplined and motivated for achievement.

People who are higher on this personality trait, which is one of the five major aspects of personality, tend to have greater cognitive resilience.

Cognitive resilience is the ability to maintain strong thinking skills despite deterioration in the brain that occurs naturally with age.

Dr Eileen Graham, the study’s first author, said:

“These findings provide evidence that it is possible for older adults to live with the neuropathology associated with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias while maintaining relatively healthy levels of cognitive function.”

In contrast, a neurotic personality can increase the risk of worse cognitive functioning, the research also found.

People who are neurotic tend to be moody, impulsive and anxious.

They also tend to have lower cognitive resilience, meaning they find it harder to resist the brain’s deterioration with age.

Dr Graham said:

“Our study shows personality traits are related to how well people are able to maintain their cognitive function in spite of developing neuropathology.

Since it is possible for personality to change, both volitionally and through interventions, it’s possible that personality could be used to identify those who are at risk and implement early interventions to help optimize function throughout old age.”

The results come from a study of 1,375 people whose brains were examined for damage after they died.

These results were compared to years of tests previously done on their psychological and cognitive functioning.

It is one of the first studies to show that personality can help people to sustain their thinking skills despite brain aging.

The study was published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B (Graham et al., 2020).

Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.

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