ⓘ Functional Ensemble of Temperament


ⓘ Functional Ensemble of Temperament

Functional Ensemble of Temperament is a neurochemical model suggesting specific functional roles of main neurotransmitter systems in the regulation of behaviour.


1. Earlier theories

Medications can adjust the release of brain neurotransmitters in cases of depression, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia and other mental disorders because an imbalance within neurotransmitter systems can emerge as consistent characteristics in behaviour compromising peoples lives. All people have a weaker form of such imbalance in at least one of such neurotransmitter systems that make each of us distinct from one another. The impact of this weak imbalance in neurochemistry can be seen in the consistent features of behaviour in healthy people temperament. In this sense temperament as neuro-chemically-based individual differences and mental illness represents varying degrees along the same continuum of neurotransmitter imbalance in neurophysiological systems of behavioural regulation.

In fact, multiple temperament traits have been linked to brain neurotransmitters and hormone systems.

By the end of the 20th century, it became clear that the human brain operates with more than a dozen neurotransmitters and a large number of neuropeptides and hormones. The relationships between these different chemical systems are complex as some of them suppress and some of them induce each others release during neuronal exchanges. This complexity of relationships devalues the old approach of assigning" inhibitory vs. excitatory” roles to neurotransmitters: the same neurotransmitters can be either inhibitory or excitatory depending on what system they interact with. It became clear that an impressive diversity of neurotransmitters and their receptors is necessary to meet a wide range of behavioural situations, but the links between temperament traits and specific neurotransmitters are still a matter of research. Several attempts were made to assign specific single neurotransmitters to specific single traits. For example, dopamine was proposed to be a neurotransmitter of the trait of Extraversion, noradrenaline was linked to anxiety, and serotonin was thought to be a neurotransmitter of an inhibition system. These assignments of neurotransmitter functions appeared to be an oversimplification when confronted by the evidence of much more diverse functionality. Research groups led by Petra Netter in Germany, Lars Farde in Karolinska Institute in Sweden and Trevor Robbins in Cambridge, UK had most extensive studies of the links between temperament/personality traits or dynamical properties of behavior and groups of neurotransmitters.


2. Development of the FET model

The architecture of the Functional Ensemble of Temperament FET was developed by Trofimova as the Compact version of the Structure of Temperament Questionnaire STQ-77 in 1997–2007. This model inherits the activity-specific approach to the structure of temperament proposed by Rusalov in mid-1980s. According to this approach, the traits of temperament and behavioural regulation related to motor-physical, social-verbal and mental aspects of activities are based on different neurophysiological systems and should be assessed separately so you can see a separation of traits into 3 rows related to these 3 types of activities. The final STQ-77/FET model considers 12 systems and temperament traits: 9 systems and traits regulating the formal functional aspects of behaviour together with 3 systems related to emotionality Neuroticism, Impulsivity and a disposition of Satisfaction formerly called Self-Confidence see Figure.

The differences between Trofimovas and Rusalovs models of temperament and the structures of their versions of the STQ are:

  • the choice of the grouping of temperament traits by three dynamical aspects endurance, speed of integration of actions and orientation, presented as three columns in the Figure;
  • a presence of orientation-related traits in Trofimovas model which were not included in Rusalovs model. These traits describe the behavioural orientation of a person with preferences to specific types of reinforcers: sensations Sensation Seeking, other peoples state Empathy or knowledge about causes of natural processes a trait named as Sensitivity to Probabilities.
  • a different structure of the traits related to emotionality. FET considers emotionality traits as systems amplifying three dynamical aspects of behaviour presented in the three columns of the model. Amplification of orientation aspects emerges in the trait of Neuroticism; amplification of speed of integration i.e. immature integration emerges as Impulsivity and amplification of subjective feeling of energetic capacities emerges in the trait of Satisfaction Self-confidence.

In 2007–2013 this STQ-77 model of temperament was reviewed and compared to the main findings in neurophysiology, neurochemistry, clinical psychology and kinesiology resulting in the neurochemical FET model offered by Irina Trofimova, McMaster University. Trevor Robbins, Cambridge University who collaborated with Trofimova on this project in 2014–2016 suggested a revision of the part of the FET neurochemical hypothesis related to the trait of Intellectual mental Endurance known in cognitive psychology also as "sustained attention". This neurochemical component of the FET hypothesis was upgraded in 2015 by underlying a key role of acetylcholine and noradrenalin in sustained attention. In February 2018, by the suggestion of Dr Marina Kolbeneva Institute of Psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences the scale Self-Confidence was renamed as the scale of dispositional Satisfaction.


3. Overview of the model

The final STQ-77/FET model considers 12 systems and temperament traits: nine systems and traits regulating the formal functional aspects of behaviour energetic, dynamic and orientational each assessed in three domains intellectual, physical and social-verbal together with three systems related to emotionality Neuroticism, Impulsivity and Satisfaction Self-Confidence) see Figure. The FET hypothesis suggests that the nine non-emotionality traits are regulated by the monoamines MA, acetylcholine and neuropeptide systems, whereas the three emotionality-related traits emerge as a dysregulation of opioid receptors systems that have direct control over MA systems. Importantly, the FET model suggests that there is no one-to-one correspondence between the neurotransmitter systems underlying temperament traits or mental disorders but instead specific ensemble relationships between these systems emerge as temperament traits. The FET hypothesis is based only on the strongest consensus points in the research studying the role of neurotransmitter in behavioural regulation and the components of temperament; it doesnt list more controversial links between these multiple systems.

† Neurotransmitter systems: 5-HT: serotonin; DA: dopamine; NE: noradrenalin; ACh: acetylcholine; Glu: glutamate; GH: Growth Hormone; SOM: Somatostatin; PRL: prolactin; OXY: oxytocin; ADH: vasopressin; SubP: Substance P; NPY: Neuropeptide Y; KOPr, MOPr, DOPr: kappa-, mu- and delta-opioid receptors correspondingly; AdrR - adrenergic receptors.