Conscientiousness like other higher function traits is advantageous to the modern society in aggregate, as well as individually. It may even be evolutionarily adaptive:
“In several respects, conscientiousness is an unusual personality trait. Because hunter-gatherer life did not require as much planning and memory for debts and duties as life in larger-scale societies with more complex divisions of labor, conscientiousness may have evolved to higher average levels only recently, and perhaps to a greater degree in some populations than others.” – Geoffrey Miller, Evolutionary psychologist (Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior)
But, behold my surprise when I came across this publication this week. Is it possible that being conscientious may prove to be advantageous in MS? The authors point out that conscientiousness is a core personality trait with favorable prognosis in neuropyschiatric disorders. Similarly, it appears to be favorable in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
In this paper Fuchs et al. studied 424 PwMS, a much larger group than before, to see whether there is a link. They used lateral ventricular volume (LVV) as a metric of brain atrophy. The NEO-FFI 60-item questionnaire was used to measure the five core personality traits: neuroticism, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
This graph summarizes their findings:
The authors suggest that the findings “may relate to adaptive behavior. People with high Conscientiousness are more likely to maintain positive health behaviors, including adherence to prescribed medical treatment. High Conscientiousness might also be a correlate of a more healthy brain, as higher Conscientiousness in PwMS is associated cross-sectionally with higher gray matter volume and spared frontal-parietal disruption by white matter lesions.“
In which case, you’ll be glad to know that the other remaining four ‘big’ personality traits are openness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability. Apparently, these traits are also found in our close cousins, the chimpanzees!
Mult Scler. 2019 Jun 20:1352458519858605. doi: 10.1177/1352458519858605. [Epub ahead of print]
Trait Conscientiousness predicts rate of brain atrophy in multiple sclerosis.
Conscientiousness is a core personality trait with favorable prognosis in neuropsychiatric disease.
We aimed to determine whether baseline Conscientiousness predicts future brain atrophy in multiple sclerosis (MS) after accounting for demographic and basic clinical characteristics.
Trait Conscientiousness, clinical features, and Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) were obtained at baseline. Lateral ventricle volume (LVV) was measured longitudinally. In a retrospective general linear mixed effects model, data from 424 patients were analyzed (mean 6 time-points, up to 15 years).
We observed significant age and Conscientiousness by time-from-baseline interactions indicating that younger age and higher Conscientiousness are associated with reduced progression of brain atrophy.