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Neuroanatomical profiles of personality change in frontotemporal lobar degeneration

  • Colin J. Mahoney (a1), Jonathan D. Rohrer (a1), Rohani Omar (a1), Martin N. Rossor (a1) and Jason D. Warren (a1)...



The neurobiological basis of personality is poorly understood. Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) frequently presents with complex behavioural changes, and therefore potentially provides a disease model in which to investigate brain substrates of personality.


To assess neuroanatomical correlates of personality change in a cohort of individuals with FTLD using voxel-based morphometry (VBM).


Thirty consecutive individuals fulfilling consensus criteria for FTLD were assessed. Each participant's carer completed a Big Five Inventory (BFI) questionnaire on five key personality traits; for each trait, a change score was derived based on current compared with estimated premorbid characteristics. All participants underwent volumetric brain magnetic resonance imaging. A VBM analysis was implemented regressing change score for each trait against regional grey matter volume across the FTLD group.


The FTLD group showed a significant decline in extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness and an increase in neuroticism. Change in particular personality traits was associated with overlapping profiles of grey matter loss in more anterior cortical areas and relative preservation of grey matter in more posterior areas; the most robust neuroanatomical correlate was identified for reduced conscientiousness in the region of the posterior superior temporal gyrus.


Quantitative measures of personality change in FTLD can be correlated with changes in regional grey matter. The neuroanatomical profiles for particular personality traits overlap brain circuits previously implicated in aspects of social cognition and suggest that dysfunction at the level of distributed cortical networks underpins personality change in FTLD.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licence (, which permits noncommercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use or in order to create a derivative work.

Corresponding author

Jason D. Warren, Dementia Research Centre, Institute of Neurology, London WC1N 3BG, UK. Email:


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This work was undertaken at UCLH/UCL who received a proportion of funding from the Department of Health's NIHR Biomedical Research Centres funding scheme. The Dementia Research Centre is an Alzheimer's Research Trust Co-ordinating Centre. This work was also funded by the Medical Research Council UK. C.J.M. is supported by an MRC programme grant. J.D.R. was supported by a Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellowship and R.O. by a Royal College of Physicians/Dunhill Medical Trust Research Fellowship. M.N.R. is an NIHR senior investigator. J.D.W. is supported by a Wellcome Trust Senior Clinical Fellowship.

Declaration of interest




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Neuroanatomical profiles of personality change in frontotemporal lobar degeneration

  • Colin J. Mahoney (a1), Jonathan D. Rohrer (a1), Rohani Omar (a1), Martin N. Rossor (a1) and Jason D. Warren (a1)...
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