Were you first in line to buy a new iPhone?   Or are you still using your handy Motorola StarTAC from 1998?    Do you like changing jobs now and again because you get bored?

These personality traits may be hard-wired in your brain, according to scientists at the University of Bonn.   They say the neural connection between the ventral striatum and the hippocampus is what makes the difference. Both of them are reward centers in the brain. The reward system which urges us to take action is located in the striatum, whereas the hippocampus is responsible for specific memory functions.

In innovation-oriented people, both of these centers apparently interact particularly well, say the scientists from Bonn, Michael X. Cohen and Dr. Bernd Weber. If the hippocampus identifies an experience as new, it then sends corresponding feedback to the striatum. There neurotransmitters are released which lead to positive feelings. With people who constantly seek new experiences, the striatum and hippocampus are evidently wired particularly well. The two researchers were able to show this in the survey  published in Nature.

Method revolutionizes the exploration of the brain, they say

It has historically been extremely difficult to make the individual 'wiring' of the brain visible. "In principle this was only possible using cross sections of the brain of deceased people, which in addition had to be stained in a complex process"' Dr. Weber explains.  "Thanks to a new method this is now a lot easier. With modern MRI you can actually determine in which directions the water in the tissue diffuses. Nerve fibres are an impenetrable obstacle for tissue fluid. It can only flow along them. These 'directional' streams of water are visible in the tomography image."

"With this hazard-free method we can work on completely new issues related to the function of the brain," Cohen says.

In their study, they focused on the 'wiring' of the striatum.  The test candidates had to choose descriptions that characterized their personalities best from a questionnaire, e.g. 'I like to try out new things just for fun or because it’s a challenge' or alternatively 'I prefer to stay at home rather than travelling or investigating new things.'

By contrast, descriptions such as 'I want to please other people as much as possible' or 'I don't care whether other people like me or the way I do things', were about social acceptance. Here  the researchers also noticed a link.

"The stronger the connection between frontal lobe and ventral striatum, the more distinctive the desire for recognition by that person’s environment," Weber says.  "That is not quite unexpected. For example, it is known that people with defects of the frontal lobe violate social norms more frequently."

Next, they would like to investigate whether people actually behave differently depending on the 'wiring' of their brain.

Article: Nature Neuroscience (doi: 10.1038/nn.2228)