Photo: Dreamworks Pictures
Well, only one thing is for certain here: They didn’t include my 90-year-old grandpa in the study because that guy’s favorite pastime these days is bitching.
According to Men’s Health, new research from the University of Cambridge suggests that contrary to popular belief, you actually “become less of a dick the older you get.”
Researchers analyzed brain imaging and personality traits of over 500 people and determined that “people tend to become less neurotic as they age” while at the same time becoming “more responsible and more agreeable.”
If you’re looking for the conclusion that hasn’t been paraphrased, here it is. Good luck:
“Evolution has shaped our brain anatomy in a way that maximizes its area and folding at the expense of reduced thickness of the cortex,” explains Dr Luca Passamonti from the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge. “It’s like stretching and folding a rubber sheet – this increases the surface area, but at the same time the sheet itself becomes thinner. We refer to this as the ‘cortical stretching hypothesis’.”
“Cortical stretching is a key evolutionary mechanism that enabled human brains to expand rapidly while still fitting into our skulls, which grew at a slower rate than the brain,” adds Professor Antonio Terracciano from the Department of Geriatrics at the Florida State University. “Interestingly, this same process occurs as we develop and grow in the womb and throughout childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood: the thickness of the cortex tends to decrease while the area and folding increase.”
In addition, as we get older, neuroticism goes down – we become better at handling emotions. At the same time, conscientiousness and agreeableness go up – we become progressively more responsible and less antagonistic.
The researchers found that high levels of neuroticism, which may predispose people to develop neuropsychiatric disorders, were associated with increased thickness as well as reduced area and folding in some regions of the cortex such as the prefrontal-temporal cortices at the front of the brain.
In contrast, openness, which is a personality trait linked with curiosity, creativity and a preference for variety and novelty, was associated with the opposite pattern, reduced thickness and an increase in area and folding in some prefrontal cortices.
So yeah, that definitely goes against the popular belief where I grew up that if you make it to 80 years old, you can look forward to spending your day yelling at squirrels and cursing at those damn kids and their rap music. Good to know.