An intriguing new study was published this month in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, proposing that personality traits may be a valuable predictor for the risk of developing pre-dementia syndromes.


 The impact of personality traits have been observed previously by researchers who linked traits such as neuroticism and conscientiousness to dementia and cognitive decline.  However, associations between personality and pre-dementia syndromes such as motoric cognitive risk (MCR) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) have yet to be well defined. 


This prospective study identified five major personality traits to investigate. The big five personality traits included neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness. The authors hypothesized that higher levels of openness and conscientiousness would be associated with a lower risk of MCR and mild cognitive impairment, and higher levels of neuroticism would be associated with an increased risk of MCI and MCR.


The researchers followed 542 eligible patients over a period of seven years (2011-2018). These patients were enrolled and scheduled for inperson visits at the research center. During study visits, participants received comprehensive cognitive, psychological, and mobility assessments.


 Over a median followup of 3.0 ± 2.0 years (range = .97.0 years), there were 69 incident mild cognitive impairment (MCI) cases and 38 incident motoric cognitive risk cases. 26 cases developed MCR and MCI concurrently, and 4 were diagnosed with both at the same visit. 


The observed results were consistent with the researcher’s hypothesis and a significant association between certain personality traits and risk of pre-dementia syndromes were observed. 


Participants who scored highest in aspects of openness had a lower risk of developing MCR compared with those in the lowest scoring division. (aHR = .38; 95% CI = .16.93; = .033). Conversely, neuroticism was associated with increased risk for nonamnestic MCI, and those who scored highest for neuroticism had a 3 fold greater risk compared to those who scored lowest (aHR = 3.00; 95% CI = 1.326.84; = .009). Interestingly, those who scored within the middle percentile for these traits were not at a significant risk. 


These findings provide valuable preliminary evidence for the use of personality traits as a predictive factor in the risk of cognitive decline and of dementia, particularly for patients on the high scoring end of openness and neuroticism. Future research is anticipated to further elucidate the causal and protective roles of personality in the aging brain. 


For the full article, please visit:


Ayers, E., Gulley, E., & Verghese, J. (2020). The Effect of Personality Traits on Risk of Incident Predementia Syndromes. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. doi:10.1111/jgs.16424


By: Jake Brassard, PharmD candidate 2021

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