Temperament and arousal systems: A new synthesis of differential psychology and functional neurochemistry

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This paper critically reviews the unidimensional construct of General Arousal as utilised by models of temperament in differential psychology for example, to underlie ‘Extraversion’. Evidence suggests that specialization within monoamine neurotransmitter systems contrasts with the attribution of a “general arousal” of the Ascending Reticular Activating System. Experimental findings show specialized roles of noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin systems in hypothetically mediating three complementary forms of arousal that are similar to three functional blocks described in classical models of behaviour within kinesiology, clinical neuropsychology, psychophysiology and temperament research. In spite of functional diversity of monoamine receptors, we suggest that their functionality can be classified using three universal aspects of actions related to expansion, to selection-integration and to maintenance of chosen behavioural alternatives. Monoamine systems also differentially regulate analytic vs. routine aspects of activities at cortical and striatal neural levels. A convergence between main temperament models in terms of traits related to described functional aspects of behavioural arousal also supports the idea of differentiation between these aspects analysed here in a functional perspective.

Graphical abstract

Proposed differential regulation of MA and ACh systems at cortical and subcortical levels for six aspects of behavioral arousal, and its convergence with temperament traits.

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