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Viewing the Personality Traits Through a Cerebellar Lens: a Focus on the Constructs of Novelty Seeking, Harm Avoidance, and Alexithymia

Abstract

The variance in the range of personality trait expression appears to be linked to structural variance in specific brain regions. In evidencing associations between personality factors and neurobiological measures, it seems evident that the cerebellum has not been up to now thought as having a key role in personality. This paper will review the most recent structural and functional neuroimaging literature that engages the cerebellum in personality traits, as novelty seeking and harm avoidance, and it will discuss the findings in the context of contemporary theories of affective and cognitive cerebellar function. By using region of interest (ROI)- and voxel-based approaches, we recently evidenced that the cerebellar volumes correlate positively with novelty seeking scores and negatively with harm avoidance scores. Subjects who search for new situations as a novelty seeker does (and a harm avoiding does not do) show a different engagement of their cerebellar circuitries in order to rapidly adapt to changing environments. The emerging model of cerebellar functionality may explain how the cerebellar abilities in planning, controlling, and putting into action the behavior are associated to normal or abnormal personality constructs. In this framework, it is worth reporting that increased cerebellar volumes are even associated with high scores in alexithymia, construct of personality characterized by impairment in cognitive, emotional, and affective processing. On such a basis, it seems necessary to go over the traditional cortico-centric view of personality constructs and to address the function of the cerebellar system in sustaining aspects of motivational network that characterizes the different temperamental traits.

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Petrosini, L., Cutuli, D., Picerni, E. et al. Viewing the Personality Traits Through a Cerebellar Lens: a Focus on the Constructs of Novelty Seeking, Harm Avoidance, and Alexithymia. Cerebellum 16, 178–190 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12311-015-0754-9

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Keywords

  • Personality traits
  • ROI- and voxel-based morphometry
  • Emotion regulation
  • Alexithymia
  • Embodiment