Introvert Or Extrovert? How Your Personality Type Can Impact Your Brain

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You’re probably familiar with the terms introvert and extrovert. You may even have preconceived ideas about what it means to fall into one of these categories. Introverts may prefer to curl up on the couch with a great book. Extroverts are often associated with being “the life of the party” and enjoy hitting happy hour.

It turns out, each of these personality types are associated with differences in the brain that lead you to prefer solo time over a party with a rowdy crowd (or vice versa). And according to Henry Ford Health psychiatrist Lisa MacLean, M.D., those differences impact your health and well-being in lots of ways.

Personality Types Explained

In the 1920s, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung coined the terms “extrovert” and “introvert.” His goal: to highlight the differences between these personality types and explain why some people are energized in social situations and others find loud and rowdy environments depleting.

While introversion and extroversion fall on a spectrum — no one is entirely one way or the other — there’s also a third category called ambivert. “Ambiverts fall right in the middle,” Dr. MacLean says. “They may be outgoing on the job or in social situations, but at the end of the day, they want to be alone doing introspective things.”

  • Extroverts regain their energy from the people, places and things around them. They tend to make friends (and decisions) more quickly, prefer to talk through problems and work in groups, and they often enjoy being the center of attention.
  • Introverts are more likely to feel drained in social situations. They need time alone to recharge their batteries, prefer one-on-one conversations over group interactions and tend to reflect before making decisions.
  • Ambiverts have a mix of introverted and extroverted tendencies. They’re energized by other people, but they also need solo time.

Brain Differences Between Personality Types

It turns out, personality types are associated with a number of brain features. The brains of introverts look and react differently than the brains of extroverts. The key differences:

  • The prefrontal cortex. Introverts have a thicker prefrontal cortex than extroverts, which means they have more tissue in the area of the brain associated with deep thought and decision-making. “Since extroverts have thinner matter in the prefrontal cortex, they process information quickly and tend to react impulsively compared to introverts, who mull things over before deciding on a course of action,” Dr. MacLean says.
  • Dopamine. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical the brain produces in response to pleasurable pursuits. While introverts and extroverts have the same amount of dopamine in their brains, extroverts have a more active dopamine reward network. So, when extroverts prepare for a party, they feel motivated, energized and excited. An introvert may feel a sense of dread — or just less enthusiasm — under the same circumstances.
  • Acetylcholine. Like dopamine, acetylcholine is linked to pleasure. But unlike dopamine, acetylcholine makes a person feel good when they’re calm, quiet and introspective — and introverts tend to have more acetylcholine receptors in their brains than extroverts. In this calm environment, introverts are able to reflect and focus on the task at hand without a lot of external noise.

How To Work With Your Personality

No matter what your type, it’s important to pay attention to how you feel when you’re engaging in different activities. “Self-care is not one size fits all,” Dr. MacLean says. Consider how you’re wired and focus on activities that are going to be rejuvenating. A few suggestions for each type:

Activities for extroverts

  • Group fitness classes
  • Dance parties
  • Art classes
  • Teamwork or group projects
  • Large parties

Activities for introverts

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Quiet dinners with one or two people
  • Solo work
  • Intimate book clubs

“One personality type isn’t better than the other,” Dr. MacLean says. “They’re just different, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each type.”


To find a doctor or therapist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.

Dr. Lisa MacLean is a psychiatrist specializing in adult ADHD treatment at Henry Ford Behavioral Services in Detroit. She is the director of physician wellness for Henry Ford Health, using her expertise to help doctors optimize wellness and find balance by teaching them healthy coping strategies so they can better serve their patients.

Categories: FeelWell