Personality traits modulate subcortical and cortical vestibular and anxiety responses to sound-evoked otolithic receptor stimulation

Iole Indovina, Roberta Riccelli, Jeffrey P. Staab, Francesco Lacquaniti, Luca Passamonti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Objective: Strong links between anxiety, space-motion perception, and vestibular symptoms have been recognized for decades. These connections may extend to anxiety-related personality traits. Psychophysical studies showed that high trait anxiety affected postural control and visual scanning strategies under stress. Neuroticism and introversion were identified as risk factors for chronic subjective dizziness (CSD), a common psychosomatic syndrome. This study examined possible relationships between personality traits and activity in brain vestibular networks for the first time using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Methods: Twenty-six right-handed healthy individuals underwent fMRI during sound-evoked vestibular stimulation. Regional brain activity and functional connectivity measures were correlated with personality traits of the Five Factor Model (neuroticism, extraversion-introversion, openness, agreeableness, consciousness). Results: Neuroticism correlated positively with activity in the pons, vestibulo-cerebellum, and para-striate cortex, and negatively with activity in the supra-marginal gyrus. Neuroticism also correlated positively with connectivity between pons and amygdala, vestibulo-cerebellum and amygdala, inferior frontal gyrus and supra-marginal gyrus, and inferior frontal gyrus and para-striate cortex. Introversion correlated positively with amygdala activity and negatively with connectivity between amygdala and inferior frontal gyrus. Conclusions: Neuroticism and introversion correlated with activity and connectivity in cortical and subcortical vestibular, visual, and anxiety systems during vestibular stimulation. These personality-related changes in brain activity may represent neural correlates of threat sensitivity in posture and gaze control mechanisms in normal individuals. They also may reflect risk factors for anxiety-related morbidity in patients with vestibular disorders, including previously observed associations of neuroticism and introversion with CSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-400
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2014


  • Anxiety
  • Chronic subjective dizziness
  • FMRI
  • Introversion
  • Neuroticism
  • Sound-evoked vestibular stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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