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Title:Optimism and the brain: trait optimism mediates the protective role of orbitofrontal cortex gray matter volume against anxiety
Author(s):Hu, Yifan
Advisor(s):Dolcos, Florin
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Brain volume
Abstract:Vast individual differences exist at both the personality level and the brain level that can influence anxiety as a general tendency. Trait optimism, characterized by the overall positive expectancy about the future, is positively correlated with emotional wellbeing and negatively correlated with anxiety. At the brain level, reduced volume in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) has been linked to increased vulnerability to anxiety, whereas intact functioning of the same region seems to promote resilience and is associated with trait optimism. However, so far it is not clear whether these two factors, personality and OFC volume, are also linked to each other and how they together are related to anxiety. This issue was investigated in a sample of 61 healthy participants, who completed measures of trait optimism and anxiety and underwent structural scanning using magnetic resonance imaging. Results showed that OFC gray matter volume in the left hemisphere was positively correlated with optimism, which in turn was negatively correlated with anxiety. The volume of OFC was found to be negatively correlated with anxiety as well. Furthermore, trait optimism mediated the negative correlation between left OFC volume and anxiety, thus demonstrating that increased gray matter volume in this brain region predicts resilience against anxiety through increased optimism. These results contribute to the understanding of neural correlates involved in optimism and anxiety, and provide novel insights into the brain-personality relation in protecting against anxiety in healthy functioning. Such knowledge may facilitate future preventive and therapeutic interventions aimed at reducing susceptibility and increasing resilience to emotional disturbances.
Issue Date:2015-07-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Yifan Hu
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-29
Date Deposited:August 201

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