The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Research Article

The effects of gender and COMT Val158Met polymorphism on fearful facial affect recognition: a fMRI study

Matthew J. Kemptona1a2, Morgan Haldanea1, Jigar Jogiaa1, Tessa Christodouloua1, John Powella3, David Colliera4, Steven C. R. Williamsa2 and Sophia Frangoua1 c1

a1 Section of Neurobiology of Psychosis, Institute of Psychiatry and NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health, King's College London, UK

a2 Centre for Neuroimaging Sciences, Institute of Psychiatry and NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health, King's College London, UK

a3 MRC Centre for Neurodegeneration Research, Department of Neuroscience, Institute of Psychiatry and NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health, King's College London, UK

a4 Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre, Institute of Psychiatry and NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health, King's College London, UK

Abstract

The functional catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT Val108/158Met) polymorphism has been shown to have an impact on tasks of executive function, memory and attention and recently, tasks with an affective component. As oestrogen reduces COMT activity, we focused on the interaction between gender and COMT genotype on brain activations during an affective processing task. We used functional MRI (fMRI) to record brain activations from 74 healthy subjects who engaged in a facial affect recognition task; subjects viewed and identified fearful compared to neutral faces. There was no main effect of the COMT polymorphism, gender or genotype×gender interaction on task performance. We found a significant effect of gender on brain activations in the left amygdala and right temporal pole, where females demonstrated increased activations over males. Within these regions, Val/Val carriers showed greater signal magnitude compared to Met/Met carriers, particularly in females. The COMT Val108/158Met polymorphism impacts on gender-related patterns of activation in limbic and paralimbic regions but the functional significance of any oestrogen-related COMT inhibition appears modest.

(Received March 18 2008)

(Reviewed April 25 2008)

(Revised July 29 2008)

(Accepted August 05 2008)

(Online publication September 17 2008)

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Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Professor S. Frangou, Section of Neurobiology of Psychosis (PO 66), Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK. Tel.: +44 207 848 0903 Fax: +44 207 848 0983 E-mail: s.frangou@iop.kcl.ac.uk

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