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Biol Psychol. 2010 Mar;83(3):260-5. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2009.08.007. Epub 2009 Aug 26.

Serotonin transporter gene promoter region polymorphism and selective processing of emotional images.

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  • 1University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712, United States.


Several studies have now documented that the serotonin transporter promoter region (5-HTTLPR) polymorphism predicts neural response to affective images in brain regions involved in the experience of emotion. However, the behavioral consequences of this genetic effect are less well known. The current study used eye-tracking methodology to examine how individuals genotyped for the 5-HTTLPR allocated their attention when simultaneously presented an array of positive and negative emotional scenes. Short 5-HTTLPR allele homozygotes displayed a bias to focus on positive images, particularly in the first half of the 30s trial. In contrast, long 5-HTTLPR allele homozygotes viewed the stimuli in a more evenhanded fashion. Thus, short 5-HTTLPR allele homozygotes may be attempting to regulate greater reactivity to negative stimuli by purposefully turning their attention towards positive stimuli. Although this sensitivity may have benefits under benign conditions, it may also increase vulnerability to affective disorders when cognitive resources needed to turn attention away from negative stimuli are compromised.

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