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Behav Brain Res. 2008 Dec 16;195(1):159-63. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2008.05.015. Epub 2008 May 29.

Decision-making impairment is related to serotonin transporter promoter polymorphism in a sample of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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  • 1Pharmacology and Molecular Biochemistry Program-UFMG, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.



Decision-making impairment is an important feature of some psychiatric disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and substance-use disorders, and is associated with dysfunction of the fronto-subcortical circuit, mainly the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Several data reports support significant correlations between decision-making impairment and the serotonin system. Thus, this neurotransmission system may be a major step in some cognitive features, particularly in OCD because serotonin is associated with this disorder. Therefore, the serotonin transporter promoter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) may be related to the modulation of these cognitive characteristics. In a sample of Caucasian OCD patients, we explored the link between decision-making and the 5-HTTLPR.


We used the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) to measure decision-making in 49 OCD patients, according to the DSM-IV criteria. All patients were submitted to Y-BOCS, BDI, BAI, the Raven Progressive Matrices, the Continuous Performance Task, and the Trail Making Test. We grouped S- and/or Lg-carriers in view of the fact that these act in a nearly dominant way.


On IGT, S- and/or Lg-carriers had significantly lower scores on the third, fourth, and fifth blocks. These findings were confirmed after adjusting for clinical and cognitive variables.


Inconclusive findings about the link between OCD and 5-HTTLPR may be better elucidated by studying OCD subgroups that could be more related in some genetic characteristics. Based on our study, low performance on IGT is associated with S- and/or Lg-carriers.


Our results corroborate the hypothesis that the pattern of neuropsychological functioning observed in previous studies may constitute a biological marker or heritable endophenotype of OCD.

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