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Mental Health - Physiology

Cardiac Signatures of Personality
Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Author: Stefan Koelsch et al.

by Stefan Koelsch, Juliane Enge, Sebastian Jentschke


There are well-established relations between personality and the heart, as evidenced by associations between negative emotions on the one hand, and coronary heart disease or chronic heart failure on the other. However, there are substantial gaps in our knowledge about relations between the heart and personality in healthy individuals. Here, we investigated whether amplitude patterns of the electrocardiogram (ECG) correlate with neurotisicm, extraversion, agreeableness, warmth, positive emotion, and tender-mindedness as measured with the Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness (NEO) personality inventory. Specifically, we investigated (a) whether a cardiac amplitude measure that was previously reported to be related to flattened affectivity (referred to as values) would explain variance of NEO scores, and (b) whether correlations can be found between NEO scores and amplitudes of the ECG.

Methodology/Principal Findings

NEO scores and rest ECGs were obtained from 425 healthy individuals. Neuroticism and positive emotion significantly differed between individuals with high and low values. In addition, stepwise cross-validated regressions indicated correlations between ECG amplitudes and (a) agreeableness, as well as (b) positive emotion.


These results are the first to demonstrate that ECG amplitude patterns provide information about the personality of an individual as measured with NEO personality scales and facets. These findings open new perspectives for a more efficient personality assessment using cardiac measures, as well as for more efficient risk-stratification and pre-clinical diagnosis of individuals at risk for cardiac, affective and psychosomatic disorders.