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J Neurosci. 2009 Nov 25;29(47):14812-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3609-09.2009.

Functional variation of the dopamine D2 receptor gene is associated with emotional control as well as brain activity and connectivity during emotion processing in humans.

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Psychiatric Neuroscience Group, Department of Neurological and Psychiatric Sciences, University of Bari, 70124 Bari, Italy.


Personality traits related to emotion processing are, at least in part, heritable and genetically determined. Dopamine D(2) receptor signaling is involved in modulation of emotional behavior and activity of associated brain regions such as the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. An intronic single nucleotide polymorphism within the D(2) receptor gene (DRD2) (rs1076560, guanine > thymine or G > T) shifts splicing of the two protein isoforms (D(2) short, mainly presynaptic, and D(2) long) and has been associated with modulation of memory performance and brain activity. Here, our aim was to investigate the association of DRD2 rs1076560 genotype with personality traits of emotional stability and with brain physiology during processing of emotionally relevant stimuli. DRD2 genotype and Big Five Questionnaire scores were evaluated in 134 healthy subjects demonstrating that GG subjects have reduced "emotion control" compared with GT subjects. Functional magnetic resonance imaging in a sample of 24 individuals indicated greater amygdala activity during implicit processing and greater dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) response during explicit processing of facial emotional stimuli in GG subjects compared with GT. Other results also demonstrate an interaction between DRD2 genotype and facial emotional expression on functional connectivity of both amygdala and dorsolateral prefrontal regions with overlapping medial prefrontal areas. Moreover, rs1076560 genotype is associated with differential relationships between amygdala/DLPFC functional connectivity and emotion control scores. These results suggest that genetically determined D(2) signaling may explain part of personality traits related to emotion processing and individual variability in specific brain responses to emotionally relevant inputs.

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