Fear Response, Personality Share Same Space in the Brain

Finding could explain why the more courageous are often more outgoing, too

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FRIDAY, Dec. 9, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- An area of the brain long associated with fear inhibition may also influence personality, Boston researchers report.

Previous research by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital found that the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) appears thicker in people who are better able to control their emotional responses to unpleasant memories.

In this new study, the same team found that those people who exhibited better fear inhibition were also more likely to have an energetic, outgoing personality.

"Some studies have demonstrated links between extraversion or the trait of neuroticism and the overall activity of brain regions that include the mOFC," study co-author Mohammed Milad, of the hospital's department of psychiatry, said in a prepared statement. But, he said, "this is the first time anyone has looked at the potential relation of both brain structure and fear extinction to personality traits."

"Understanding how personality is based in the brain is important both for insights into personality disorders and for conditions in which personality may confer vulnerability, such as anxiety disorders," study co-author Dr. Scott Rauch, director of the Psychiatric Neuroscience Research Division at MGH, said in a prepared statement.

The findings were published in a recent issue of NeuroReport.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about the brain.

SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital, news release, Nov. 28, 2005

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