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J Abnorm Psychol. 2009 Aug;118(3):670-81. doi: 10.1037/a0016198.

Association of the serotonin transporter gene promoter region (5-HTTLPR) polymorphism with biased attention for emotional stimuli.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, Texas 78712, USA.


A deletion polymorphism in the serotonin transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) has been associated with vulnerability to affective disorders, yet the mechanism by which this gene confers vulnerability remains unclear. Two studies examined associations between the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism and attentional bias for emotional stimuli among nondepressed adults. Biased attention, attention engagement, and difficulty with attention disengagement were assessed with a spatial cuing task using emotional stimuli. Results from Study 1 (N = 38) indicated that short 5-HTTLPR allele carriers experienced greater difficulty disengaging their attention from sad and happy stimuli compared with long allele homozygotes. Study 2 participants (N = 144) were genotyped for the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism, including single nucleotide polymorphism rs25531 in the long allele of the 5-HTTLPR. Consistent with Study 1, individuals homozygous for the low-expressing 5-HTTLPR alleles (i.e., S and LG) experienced greater difficulty disengaging attention from sad, happy, and fear stimuli than high-expressing 5-HTTLPR homozygotes. Because this association exists in healthy adults, it may represent a susceptibility factor for affective disorders that becomes problematic during stressful life experiences.

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