Summary: Certain personality traits could increase the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, a new study reports. Openness was associated with a 6% reduced risk of developing a pre-dementia condition, while those who scored higher for neuroticism had a 6% increased risk of MCI.
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society examined five personality traits–neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness–and their links to pre-dementia conditions called motoric cognitive risk (MCR) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) syndromes.
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Among 524 adults aged 65 years and older who were followed for a median of 3 years, 38 participants developed MCR and 69 developed MCI (some with memory loss, or amnestic MCI).
Openness was associated with a 6% reduced risk of developing MCR, whereas neuroticism was associated with a 6% increased risk of non-amnestic MCI. In non-amnestic MCI, memory remains intact, but one or more other cognitive abilities–such as language, visual-spatial skills, or executive functioning–are impaired.
None of the personality traits were associated with MCI overall or with amnestic MCI.
“While more studies are needed, our results provide evidence that personality traits play an independent role in the risk for or protection against specific pre-dementia syndromes,” said lead author Emmeline Ayers, MPH, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “From a clinical perspective, these findings emphasize the importance of accounting for aspects of personality when assessing for dementia risk.”
About this neuroscience research article
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The Effect of Personality Traits on Risk of Incident Pre‐dementia Syndromes OBJECTIVES Personality traits have been shown to be associated with the risk of dementia; less is known about their association with pre‐dementia syndromes. The aim of the present study was to examine the role of personality traits as predictors of incident pre‐dementia, motoric cognitive risk (MCR), and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) syndromes.
DESIGN We prospectively examined the association between five personality traits (neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness) and the risk of incident MCR or MCI. MCR builds on MCI operational definitions, substituting the cognitive impairment criterion with slow gait, and it is associated with increased risk for both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
SETTING Community based.
PARTICIPANTS Nondemented participants (n = 524; 62% women) aged 65 years and older.
MEASUREMENTS Cox proportional hazard analysis, adjusted for demographics and disease burden, was used to evaluate the risk of each pre‐dementia syndrome based on baseline personality traits, measured using the Big Five Inventory. RESULTS Over a median follow‐up of 3 years, 38 participants developed incident MCR, and 69 developed incident MCI (41 non‐amnestic and 28 amnestic subtypes). Openness was associated with a reduced risk of developing incident MCR (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] = .94; 95% confidence interval [CI] = .89‐.99), whereas neuroticism was associated with an increased risk of incident non‐amnestic MCI (aHR = 1.06; 95% CI = 1.01‐1.11). These associations remained significant even after considering the confounding effects of lifestyle or mood. None of the personality traits were associated with MCI overall or amnestic MCI.
CONCLUSION These findings provide evidence of a distinct relationship between personality traits and development of specific pre‐dementia syndromes.