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Personality Associations With Amyloid and Tau: Results From the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging and Meta-analysis

Published:September 02, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2021.08.021

      Abstract

      Background

      Higher neuroticism and lower conscientiousness are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, but the underlying neuropathological correlates remain unclear. Our aim was to examine whether personality traits are associated with amyloid and tau neuropathology in a new sample and meta-analyses.

      Methods

      Participants from the BLSA (Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging) completed the Revised NEO Personality Inventory and underwent amyloid (11C-labeled Pittsburgh compound B) and tau (18F-flortaucipir) positron emission tomography.

      Results

      Among cognitively normal BLSA participants, neuroticism was associated with higher cortical amyloid burden (odds ratio 1.68, 95% CI 1.20–2.34), and conscientiousness was associated with lower cortical amyloid burden (odds ratio 0.61, 95% CI 0.44–0.86). These associations remained significant after accounting for age, sex, education, depressive symptoms, hippocampal volume, and APOE ε4. Similar associations were found with tau in the entorhinal cortex. Random-effects meta-analyses of 12 studies found that higher neuroticism (N = 3015, r = 0.07, p = .008) and lower conscientiousness (N = 2990, r = −0.11, p < .001) were associated with more amyloid deposition. Meta-analyses of 8 studies found that higher neuroticism (N = 2231, r = 0.15, p < .001) and lower conscientiousness (N = 2206, r = −0.14, p < .001) were associated with more tau pathology. The associations were moderated by cognitive status, with stronger effects in cognitively normal compared with heterogeneous samples, suggesting that the associations between personality and proteopathies are not phenomena that emerge with neuropsychiatric clinical symptoms.

      Conclusions

      By aggregating results across samples, this study advances knowledge on the association between personality and neuropathology. Neuroticism and conscientiousness may contribute to resistance against amyloid and tau neuropathology.

      Keywords

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      Linked Article

      • Chicken or Egg? Untangling the Associations Between Personality Traits and Alzheimer’s Disease Pathology
        Biological PsychiatryVol. 91Issue 4
        • Preview
          Personality displays an intriguing yet complex relationship with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). While behavioral and personality changes have long been recognized as common symptoms of AD-related dementia, more recent evidence suggests that certain personality traits may also represent independent risk factors for the disease. In the current issue of Biological Psychiatry, Terracciano et al. (1) further investigate these relationships by testing whether personality traits are associated with the deposition of amyloid and tau pathology.
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