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Can personality predict dementia risk?

August 12, 2016
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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Do certain personality traits lead to a higher risk of dementia in older adults? Yes, say researchers from the University of Bologna.

Using five key personality types—neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness—researches found a connection between some types and poorer performance on cognitive function tests, noted a four-year study published in The Journals of Gerontology B.

Of the five personality traits researched across more than 13,000 individuals and followed for a four-year period:

  • Neuroticism, a personality trait that often includes negative emotions and impulsive behaviors, seems to produce the worst results on cognitive assessments, especially if combined with low conscientiousness, the researchers’ examination determined.
  • Extraverts, who tend to be highly social and energetic, tended to score high on speed-based tests, but not so well on process-based reasoning tests.
  • Openness, including the tendency toward creativity, tends to result in high scores on most cognitive tests, especially executive functions and verbal recall.
  • Conscientiousness had mixed results, but did tend to affect cognitive risk when combined with another trait.
  • Agreeableness didn’t seem to affect cognitive performance in either way.

The study triggers questions about the cognitive assessment interpretation process and whether personality traits should be included in their interpretation. More research is needed to study the relationship between personality traits and the process and timeline of cognitive decline, the study authors say.


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