Public Library of Science, PLoS ONE, 10(9), p. e109664
It is well established that gross prefrontal cortex damage can affect an individual’s personality. It is also possible that subtle prefrontal cortex changes associated with conditions such as chronic pain, and not detectable until recent advances in human brain imaging, may also result in subtle changes in an individual’s personality. In an animal model of chronic neuropathic pain, subtle prefrontal cortex changes including altered basal dendritic length, resulted in altered decision making ability. Using multiple magnetic resonance imaging techniques, we found in humans, although gray matter volume and on-going activity were unaltered, chronic neuropathic pain was associated with reduced free and bound proton movement, indicators of subtle anatomical changes, in the medial prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex and mediodorsal thalamus. Furthermore, proton spectroscopy revealed an increase in neural integrity in the medial prefrontal cortex in neuropathic pain patients, the degree of which was significantly correlated to the personality temperament of novelty seeking. These data reveal that even subtle changes in prefrontal cortex anatomy may result in a significant change in an individual’s personality.