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J Cogn Neurosci. 2011 Nov;23(11):3681-93. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00055. Epub 2011 May 13.

Serotonin transporter genotype modulates subgenual response to fearful faces using an incidental task.

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University College London, UK.


This study assessed the impact of serotonin transporter genotype (5-HTTLPR) on regional responses to emotional faces in the amygdala and subgenual cingulate cortex (sgACC), while subjects performed a gender discrimination task. Although we found no evidence for greater amygdala reactivity or reduced amygdala-sgACC coupling in short variant 5-HTTLPR homozygotes (s/s), we observed an interaction between genotype and emotion in sgACC. Only long variant homozygotes (la/la) exhibited subgenual deactivation to fearful versus neutral faces, whereas the effect in s/s subjects was in the other direction. This absence of subgenual deactivation in s/s subjects parallels a recent finding in depressed subjects [Grimm, S., Boesiger, P., Beck, J., Schuepbach, D., Bermpohl, F., Walter, M., et al. Altered negative BOLD responses in the default-mode network during emotion processing in depressed subjects. Neuropsychopharmacology, 34, 932-943, 2009]. Taken together, the findings suggest that subgenual cingulate activity may play an important role in regulating the impact of aversive stimuli, potentially conferring greater resilience to the effects of aversive stimuli in la/la subjects. Using dynamic causal modeling of functional magnetic resonance imaging data, we explored the effects of genotype on effective connectivity and emotion-specific changes in coupling across a network of regions implicated in social processing. Viewing fearful faces enhanced bidirectional excitatory coupling between the amygdala and the fusiform gyrus, and increased the inhibitory influence of the amygdala over the sgACC, although this modulation of coupling did not differ between the genotype groups. The findings are discussed in relation to the role of sgACC and serotonin in moderating responses to aversive stimuli [Dayan, P., & Huys, Q. J., Serotonin, inhibition, and negative mood. PLoS Comput Biol, 4, e4, 2008; Mayberg, H. S., Liotti, M., Brannan, S. K., McGinnis, S., Mahurin, R. K., Jerabek, P. A., et al. Reciprocal limbic-cortical function and negative mood: Converging PET findings in depression and normal sadness. Am J Psychiatry, 156, 675-682, 1999].

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