COMT genotype influences prefrontal response to emotional distraction
Early studies of genetic effects on brain activity have been conducted to investigate primarily either the influence of polymorphisms in dopaminergic genes, especially the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene, on prefrontal cognitive processes such as working memory, or that of polymorphisms in the serotonin transporter gene on the amygdala response to threatening stimuli. Here, we address genetic influences on the neural systems underlying cognitive-affective interactions. Specifically, we assess the effect of the CO MT val158met polymorphism onfrontal regulation of attentionunder emotional distraction. Healthy volunteers were scanned while performing a house-matching task with affectively negative versus neutral distractors. Effects of val allele load were examined on frontal regions associated with attentional control and emotion regulation, and on parahippocampal regions associated with perception of houses. As we predicted, val load correlated positively with activity in control- and task-related regions during performance under emotional distraction. These findings provide an initial step toward identifying genetic contributions to interindividual variability in recruitment of mechanisms that regulate affective processing.