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Schizophr Bull. 2012 Jan;38(1):15-22. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbr113. Epub 2011 Sep 9.

Serotonin transporter gene polymorphism, childhood trauma, and cognition in patients with psychotic disorders.

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Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.



The functional polymorphism in the promoter region of the SLC6A4/5-HTT serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) has been linked to altered stress response. Carriers of the short (s-) allele have increased negative psychological reactions and stress hormone release compared with carriers of the long (l-) allele, interacting with severe life events including childhood trauma. High stress levels are associated with cognitive impairments in a variety of clinical and experimental studies. Patients with psychotic disorders are characterized both by more childhood traumatic events and abnormal stress responses and by significant but highly variable cognitive dysfunction. We hypothesize that 5-HTTLPR variations and long-term effects of childhood trauma interact and contribute to some of the variation in cognitive dysfunction seen in patients with psychotic disorders.


Patients with psychotic disorders (schizophrenia and affective spectrums) were recruited from a catchment area-based treatment organization. History of childhood abuse was obtained by the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Cognitive function was assessed through a comprehensive, standardized neuropsychological test battery. 5-HTTLPR genotypes were analyzed using standard polymerase chain reaction.


We observed a significant interaction between 5-HTTLPR variants and childhood trauma across cognitive domains; here, homozygotic s-carriers exposed to high levels of childhood trauma (physical neglect and abuse) had significantly poorer cognitive functioning than all other groups.


Our results need replication but underline the importance of investigating childhood trauma and its interaction with genetic markers when studying cognitive dysfunction in patients with psychotic disorders.

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