Publication Summaries

We realize that some of the publications written on ADEPT that are posted on our website or on other sites may be difficult to read due to their dense nature. We also understand it may be difficult to find articles written on ADEPT as many of them may not necessarily include ‘ADEPT’ in the title or abstract. In order to keep you up to date on ADEPT’s latest contributions to science we’ve recently had our lab’s undergraduate research assistants create summaries of some of our articles. We hope you find these helpful and are able to gain some more insight into the importance of this project’s findings!

Personality traits and brain responses to rewards in teenagers (Original Paper Title: Extraversion, neuroticism and the electrocortical response to monetary rewards in adolescent girls; Speed et al. 2018)

What is this study about?

This study explores the relationship between certain personality traits and brain activity in response to rewards. Personality traits are psychological characteristics that make each of us who we are. The five main personality traits are: Extraversion, Neuroticism, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. This study focused specifically on Extraversion (a tendency to engage with other people, think optimistically, and feel energetic) and Neuroticism (a tendency to experience negative emotions and high levels of stress). Teenage years are characterized by changes in these personality traits and the way the brain processes receiving a reward, such as a prize or money. This study aimed to explore how personality traits and brain responses to winning and losing money are related to each other.

 

How was this study conducted?

This relationship was explored by evaluating how the brain of participants in the ADEPT project with different personalities respond to receiving rewards when they were 13.5 to 15.5 years old. Participants (550 female teenagers) completed a personality test that evaluated their levels of extraversion and neuroticism. To measure brain responses to rewards, participants completed a computer task while their brain waves were recorded through an “EEG” cap placed on their head. In this task, participants saw a series of two doors appearing on the computer screen, and were asked to pick which one was hiding a money prize that they could win at the end of the task. Typically, participant won money on some trials and lost money on other trials, making it possible to measure the way their brain responded to wins or losses.

 

What did this study find?

This study found that individuals with higher levels of extraversion showed an increased difference between brain responses to wins and losses, meaning that they were more sensitive to rewards. This relationship was also influenced by levels of neuroticism, as participants who had a combination of high levels of extraversion and low levels of neuroticism showed greatest brain responses.

 

 Why does this matter?

This study is important because it clarifies how brain responses are linked to personality traits, by showing that personality may have connections to the way the brain processes rewards in teenagers. It is possible that these brain processes have a role in shaping personality over time, which is one question we are examining in the most recent follow-ups. In addition, previous studies have shown that both brain responses to rewards and personality traits may be associated with greater chances of struggling with depression. Future studies can therefore build upon these findings to investigate how the relationships between personality, brain responses and mental health change as teenagers become adults. This can have many implications, such as, understanding why some people develop mental health issues and how to help them.