Individual Differences

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Science  24 Dec 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5705, pp. 2164
DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5705.2164d

Neuroimaging has begun to map specific patterns of brain activity associated with cognitive functions. The usual statistical analysis of these rather large data sets relies on having about a dozen subjects and looking for consistent neuronal activations, but an increasing interest in how personality traits and mood states might influence responses has led to looking at activations across subjects.

Canli et al. used the emotional Stroop interference task to show that negative words elicited greater activation of the anterior cingulate region, which is known to be involved in processing cognitive/emotional stimuli, with greater negative mood of the subject; whereas activation due to positive words correlated with higher scores for the trait of extraversion. This dissociation might plausibly be interpreted as reflecting a greater susceptibility to being distracted by negative interfering stimuli while in a negative frame of mind and, conversely, being more receptive to positive stimuli if one is inherently an outgoing sort. Kumari et al. have used the n-back task to show that with increasing cognitive demands, activation in the anterior cingulate increased in all subjects, but much more so for the ones who scored as extroverts, consistent with them being less aroused or anxious at rest and hence having to mobilize more cognitive resources to perform at the same level. — GJC

Behav. Neurosci. 118, 897 (2004); J. Neurosci. 24, 10636 (2004).

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