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Neuroticism and the brain

Neuroimaging and genetic imaging studies on the personality trait neuroticism
PhD ceremony:dr. M.N. (Michelle) Servaas
When:February 18, 2015
Supervisors:prof. dr. A. (Andre) Aleman, J. (Hans) Ormel
Co-supervisor:dr. H. (Harriëtte) Riese
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Medical Sciences / UMCG
Neuroticism and the brain

The aim of this thesis was to investigate the neural mechanisms underlying neuroticism to better understand why individuals scoring high on this personality trait are more vulnerable to develop psychopathology. To this end, we conducted a series of meta-analytic, neuroimaging and genetic imaging studies. During rest (i.e. when the brain is in default mode), we found that the network organisation of high (compared to low) neurotic individuals is organised less optimally with regard to efficient information processing and shows signs of functional disconnectivity. In addition, we demonstrated that subnetworks related to emotion and salience processing play a more prominent role in the network organisation of high neurotic individuals, while subnetworks related to sensory(-motor) functions and cognitive control play a less prominent role. This was also observed in the results of our meta-analysis and tasks that we investigated. Furthermore, we found that genetic markers, namely 5-HTTLPR and COMT, have an impact on the functional network organisation, also in interaction with neuroticism. In conclusion, the findings may help explain why high (compared to low) neurotic individuals have an increased risk of developing psychopathology and may increase the knowledge for developing treatments that will prevent these individuals from transiting from a healthy state to a clinical state.