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Comptes rendus de lAcadmie bulgare des Sciences e Tome 63, No 4, 2010


Stiliyan Georgiev, Dolja Philipova, Christina Christova, Ivanka Ivanova
(Submitted by Corresponding Member A. Kossev on November 24, 2009)

Abstract The aim of this work was to investigate the dependence of alpha frequencies of personality dimension neuroticism after the stimuli presentation in discrimination task conditions. In our study participated 72 healthy volunteers. The personality was tested with Eysencks personality questionnaire (EPQ). The EEG was recorded in conditions of passive listening, mental and sensory-motor tasks. The artifact free trials were ltered (bandpass 0.5-45 [Hz]) and the normalized averaged power spectra for each record, tone and task condition was calculated. We compared the power spectra in alpha frequency range between stable, intermediate and neurotic groups divided according the scores on EPQ. The volunteers with high neuroticism scores showed more prominent power spectra in alpha 2 frequency range more expressed in task conditions. The obtained data showed specic functional meaning of event related oscillatory activity in cognitive and sensorymotor information processing depending on individual personality type. Key words: neuroticism, EEG power spectrum, personality dimension

Introduction. Neuroticism is one of the most popular and proved personality traits and is presented as main dichotomy in many personality theories.
This scientic paper was presented on the Jubilee session dedicated to the memory of Professor Gidikov, Associate professor Penchev and Associate professor Belcheva, organized by the Bulgarian Physiological Society, 2009 May, 27.


The neurotics are more sensitive to stressors which consequently trigger reactivity processes that produce variability in emotional and motivational states. The neuroticism is often bound with terms as emotionality, negative emotionality, reactive emotionality. Neuroticism appears to be related to functional brain differences. Hans Eysenck theorized that neuroticism is a function of activity in the limbic system, and research suggests that people who score is highly on measures of neuroticism have a more reactive sympathetic nervous system, and are more sensitive to environmental stimulation [1 ]. Results from several studies support associations among variants in electroencephalogram (EEG) alpha voltage and alcohol dependence, ethnic heritage, and a family history of alcohol dependence [2 ]. The distributed EEG alpha sources can dier by normal elderly people and disease [3 ]. All this substantiate the idea, that alpha activity may be sensitive to personality variations in particular neuroticism. It was demonstrated that neuroticism is associated with greater relative right posterior activity compared the results of mean log transformed alpha power and the neuroticism scores [4 ]. The neuroticism is related to variability of interhemispheric EEG asymmetry. The higher levels of neuroticism were associated with greater mid-frontal EEG asymmetry variability [5 ]. After EEG recordings in a resting state the absolute and relative spectral powers were calculated for individually adjusted delta, theta, and alpha bands. Neuroticism was positively related to alpha power [6 ]. Multiple regression analyses showed that individual alpha frequencies had a greater contribution to personality traits than xed band alpha waves [7 ]. In opposite measuring the mean alpha amplitude, the alpha attenuation response and its rate of habituation during the course of 60 repetitive ash stimuli in 64 young adult male subjects [8 ] did not nd signicant correlation between any of these variables and the Neuroticism scores. Other authors found that alpha and beta correlated negatively with neuroticism in males [7 ]. There is a close functional relationship between thalamic activity and alpha rhythm in humans mediated by corticothalamic loops which are independent of sensory aerences [9 ]. The alpha frequency band can be divided into two frequency sub-bands: alpha 1 (810 [Hz]) and alpha 2 (1012 [Hz]). The alpha 1 sub-band would reveal unspecic alertness and/or expectancy and the alpha 2 sub-band would depend on task-specic sensory, motor, and/or semantic processes [10 ]. Similarly it was described that the desynchronization in the lower alpha band reects attention and the desynchronization in the upper alpha band reects semantic memory performance [11 ]. The correlations between lower and upper alpha band event related desynchronization (ERD) systematically decline as task demands increase [12 ]. The variability of the inter-individual alpha frequency window is of great importance. Individual alpha frequency varies to a large extent even in a sample of age matched subjects [11 ]. This makes us suspect relationship between this variability of alpha window and the individual personality dimensions in particular neuroticism. At the same time the dierence in the oscillatory activity between
S. Georgiev, D. Philipova, C. Christova et al.

stable and neurotic in the moment of cognitive information processing is less investigated. The classical alpha rhythm is strongly dependant on sensory stimulation and mental activity. It is well known that alpha activity in the moment of cognitive processing is suppressed, which may lead to dierences concerning the experimental results for alpha activity in stable and neurotic personalities. The aim of this work was to investigate the dependence of alpha frequencies of personality dimension neuroticism after the stimuli presentation in discrimination task conditions. Our hypostasis is that there are functional dierences between two groups concerning alpha frequency oscillatory processes in cognitive task conditions. Materials and methods. Personality type measures. In the study participated 72 (35 male 37 female) healthy volunteers (mean age 30.1 with standard deviation 9.6 years). All subjects were right-handed [13 ]. Each person lled the self report Eysencks Personality Questionnaire (EPQ) adapted for Bulgarians [14 ]. Some authors divide the researched persons on stable and neurotic groups using the mean score on the neuroticism scale in the personality test [15 ]. In our research we wanted to make more precise division and to include an intermediate group. According to the scores in the neuroticism scale the persons were divided in neurotic, intermediate and stable groups. The subjects, who scored from one to mean score minus one standard deviation, were classied as stable; those who scored from mean score minus one standard deviation to mean score plus one standard deviation were classied as intermediate; those who scored more then mean score plus one standard deviation were classied as neurotics. So our groups are: stable group (SG) from 1 to 8 points; intermediate group (IG) from 10 to 12 points; neurotic group (NG) from 14 to 20 points. We excluded the persons with 9 and 13 points on the neuroticism scale to avoid the statistical impact of the data from one group that probably are very similar to data from the neighbouring group. In each group there were left 20 healthy subjects. After the rejection for statistical analysis there remained 60 subjects 20 stable, 20 intermediate and 20 neurotics. The stable group included 11 female and 9 male (mean age 30.1 with standard deviation 9.6 years). The intermediate group included 10 female and 10 male (mean age 32.7 with standard deviation 9.4 years). The neurotic group included 12 female and 8 male (mean age 30.0 with standard deviation 8.8 years); everything 33 female and 27 male subjects. Electroencephalographic registration. The volunteers were comfortably seated in an ergonomically designed chair within a soundproof, electrically screened chamber monitored by a Canon Video System. The hand and forearm were positioned along the armrests. The index nger was immobilized within a rigid rail attached to a pull-push force transducer: its output signal was proportional to the isometric force produced. An electroencephalogram (bandpass ltered between 0.370 Hz) was recorded from Fz, Cz, Pz, C3 and C4 , using Ag/AgCl Nihon-Kohden electrodes with reference to both processi mastoidei, according
Compt. rend. Acad. bulg. Sci., 63, No 4, 2010


to the system 1020. An electrode placed on the forehead served as ground. An oculogram was recorded from m. orbicularis oculi sin. We recorded EEG under four equal audio series in pseudorandomized order of 50 low (800 Hz) and 50 high (1000 Hz) tones with an intensity of 60 dB, duration 50 ms and randomized interstimulus interval between 2.53.5 s. We changed the type task engagement by giving dierent instructions in the following order: rst passive listening (PL); second answering with the right index nger to the low tone and the left index nger to the high tone binary sensory-motor reaction task (BSMT); third counting the low tones (CLT); fourth answering with the right index nger only to the low tones (ALT). The artifact free trials were bandpass ltered 0.545 [Hz]. We calculated the power spectra (PS) for each series trial using Fast Fourier Transformation (FFT) in time window between 0800 [ms] after stimulus presentation. The power spectra were normalized as the area under the power spectra was taken for 100%. So the contribution of each frequency line is considered as percentage contribution to total spectral power. After the normalization procedure the PSs were averaged for each experimental subject, records (Fz, Cz, Pz, C3 , C4 ), series and tones separately. For group comparison we used the PS areas under alpha 1 (7.59.5 [Hz]) and alpha 2 (1012 [Hz]) frequencies [16 ]. We also measured the motor reaction time. The following parameters of movement execution were dened: onset of motor response (OMR) from stimulus presentation to the onset of voluntary force production; maximal mechanical power (MMP) from stimulus presentation to the force peak of motor answer. A computer programme was used to apply Mann-Whitney U-test of statistical data analysis. Experimental results. Our results revealed strong dierence in the mean alpha 2 spectral power between SG and NG. In PL condition NG produced greater alpha 2 power spectra compared to SG. This dierence was prominent in Fz (U=81; p = 0.01), Cz (U=94; p = 0.03), Pz (U=80; p = 0.009), C3 (U=72; p = 0.004), C4 (U=84; p = 0.01) records for the high tone and Fz (U=80; p = 0.009), C3 (U=88; p = 0.02) records for the low tone (Fig. 1A). In the BSMT series the alpha 2 power spectra in NG was greater than in SG. This dierence reached signicant level in Fz (U=78; p = 0.008), Cz (U=74; p = 0.005), Pz (U=60; p = 0.001), C3 (U=78; p = 0.008), C4 (U=85; p = 0.01) for high tones and in Fz (U=73; p = 0.005), Cz (U=72; p = 0.004), Pz (U=59; p = 0.002), C3 (U=70; p = 0.004), C4 (U=78; p = 0.008) for the low tones (Fig. 1B). In the CLT series the NG produced greater alpha 2 power spectra compared to SG. The dierence was signicant in Fz (U=106; p = 0.03), Pz (U=97; p = 0.01), C3 (U=94; p = 0.01) records for the high non-target tone and in Fz (U=86; p = 0.02), Pz (U=96; p = 0.01), C3 (U=95; p = 0.02), C4 (U=84; p = 0.008) for the low target tone (Fig. 1C).


S. Georgiev, D. Philipova, C. Christova et al.

In the ALT series the alpha 2 spectral power was greater in NG compared to SG. Signicant level was reached in Fz (U=101; p = 0.02), Cz (U=104; p = 0.02), Pz (U=100; p = 0.02), C3 (U=108; p = 0.02), C4 (U=99; p = 0.02) for the high non-target tone and in Fz (U=95; p = 0.01), Cz (U=104; p = 0.02), Pz (U=100; p = 0.02), C3 (U=103; p = 0.02) for the low target tone (Fig. 1D). We measured the onset of motor response and the moment of maximal mechanical power of reaction times and standard deviations for each person. We did not nd dierences between stable, intermediate and neurotic groups in onset of the motor responses to low and high tons. The response time of maximal nger power did not also dier signicantly between the three groups. The literature data clamming no deference between stable and neurotic groups in the mean score, but in the standard deviations of reaction times [17 ]. So we expected larger standard deviations in neurotic compared to stable group, but our data revealed no such signicant dierence. The data for reaction times and standard deviations of reaction times in BSMT are shown in Table 1.
Table 1

Reaction Times and Standard Deviations in response to Low (800 Hz) and High (1000 Hz) stimulus in BSMT series Reaction Time [ms] OMR for Low Tone MMP for Low Tone OMR for High Tone MMP for High Tone SG StDev 421 99 1207 140 434 104 1199 132 IG 449 1210 456 1219 StDev 109 150 111 158 NG StDev 435 102 1169 126 433 97 1161 120

Discussion. The main result of this research is that NG generates signicantly greater alpha 2 spectral power than SG which supports the data that neuroticism is positively related to alpha power [6 ]. Discussing the results we must take care not to confuse the structures bound with spontaneous alpha rhythm with the structures responsible for alpha frequency changes in the time interval immediately after the presentation of a certain stimulus. Analysing the time window of 0 to 800 [ms] after stimulus presentation, we found a percentage increase in alpha 2 frequency power spectra with an increase in neuroticism. This tendency was prominent in all experimental series. Thus we are led to suppose that there is an increased arousability of neuronal circuits responsible for the generation and modulation of EEG frequencies between 10 and 12 [Hz] or a more prominent suppression of basic alpha activity in SG. The alpha 1 frequency power spectrum was less inuenced by neuroticism than alpha 2 power spectra. So, taking into account the functional dierences between alpha 1 and alpha 2 frequencies, SG and NG dier in the level of task-specic sensory and motor processes but not in unspecic alertness and/or expectancy [10 ].
Compt. rend. Acad. bulg. Sci., 63, No 4, 2010


Fig. 1. Comparison of alpha 2 spectral power between stable

, intermediate

and neurotic p < 0.01

groups. A) passive listening task; B) binary sensory-motor reaction task; C) counting the low tones task; D) reacting to the low tones task condition. p < 0.05;


S. Georgiev, D. Philipova, C. Christova et al.

The literature data indicates that NG has more prominent alpha power spectra than SG does in the spontaneous EEG records [6 ]. Perhaps the condition of auditory stimuli presentation modies the tendency of increased power spectra in the whole alpha band in spontaneous EEG to increase only in alpha 2 power spectra in the condition of auditory stimuli presentation. Our result of alpha 2 increases both in the passive listening task and in the cognitive and sensory-motor task conditions which lead us to suppose that the dierences are based on the brain structures engaged in a basic alpha rhythm and/or with the structures related to the reactivity to sensory stimulation. H. Eysenck takes neuroticism as a function of the reactivity of the limbic system, which modulates EEG activity in the theta frequency band. The theta and alpha frequency bands are reciprocally related. When the theta is decreased the alpha is increased and vice versa. So, the results of greater alpha 2 in NG as compared to SG can be particularly explained by greater reactivity in the limbic system of NG. According to Eysencks theory most probably, the modulating eect on the limbic system over the talamo-cortical loop places an important role in the functional dierences between SG and NG. Our obtained data show specic functional meaning of the event related oscillatory activity in cognitive and sensorymotor information processing depending on individual personality type neuroticism.


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S. Georgiev, D. Philipova, C. Christova et al.