The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Thematic Section: Memory and Cognition

Fine-mapping of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene supports an association of the Val66Met polymorphism with episodic memory

Flurin Cathomasa1a2 c1, Christian Voglera1a2, Jessica C. Euler-Sigmunda1a2, Dominique J.-F. de Quervaina3a4 and Andreas Papassotiropoulosa1a2

a1 University of Basel, Department of Psychology, Division of Molecular Psychology, Basel, Switzerland

a2 University of Basel, Department Biozentrum, Life Sciences Training Facility, Basel, Switzerland

a3 University of Basel, Department of Psychology, Division of Cognitive Neuroscience, Basel, Switzerland

a4 University of Basel, Psychiatric University Clinic, Basel, Switzerland


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays an important role in hippocampal synaptic plasticity and long-term potentiation. A valine (Val) to methionine (Met) substitution in the BDNF gene (Val66Met) has been associated with episodic memory performance. This study aimed at fine-mapping the genomic region harbouring BDNF and the adjacent gene, BDNFOS, in order to identify other possible memory-related gene variants. Healthy young Swiss adults (n=333) underwent a verbal memory free-recall task which used words with both neutral and emotional content. Genetic variability of the BDNF and BDNFOS region was covered by analysing 55 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Among all examined SNPs, the non-synonymous Val66Met SNP rs6265 showed the highest significant level of association with memory performance for words with emotional content. Recall performance for neutral words was unrelated to the analysed SNPs. Our results support a role for the Val66Met BDNF polymorphism in episodic memory and suggest a modulatory influence of emotional valence.

(Received February 04 2010)

(Reviewed March 03 2010)

(Revised April 01 2010)

(Accepted April 10 2010)

(Online publication May 19 2010)


c1 Address for correspondence: F. Cathomas, Division of Molecular Psychology, University of Basel, Missionsstr. 60/62, 4055 Basel, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 61 2670588 Fax: +41 61 2673398 Email: