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Behav Brain Res. 2014 Jun 1;266:169-73. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2014.02.037. Epub 2014 Mar 4.

Effect of catechol-O-methyltransferase-val158met-polymorphism on the automatization of motor skills - a post hoc view on an experimental data.

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University of Paderborn, Germany. Electronic address:
Technische Universit√§t M√ľnchen, Germany.
University of Paderborn, Germany.
Saarland University, Germany.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate if the catechol-O-methyltransferase-val158met (COMT)-polymorphism, which is known to affect prefrontal dopaminergic metabolism, affects the automatization of motor skills. Twenty-two participants volunteered for gene analysis after they had participated in experiments in which they practiced a single-joint arm movement sequence 460-760 times under different feedback conditions. Motor automaticity was assessed in a pre-test and a post-test according to the dual-task paradigm, which incorporated a visuo-spatial secondary task. To account for the different practice conditions in the four original studies, dual-task cost reduction was assessed using single case effect sizes proportioned to the respective group mean. For the secondary task but not for the prioritized motor task, these relative single case effect sizes proved to be positively (and significantly) correlated with the number of met-alleles on the COMT-genotype, rs=.553; p=.004. Thus, the number of met-alleles indicated a tendency toward enhanced motor automatization. Thus, due to an increased prefrontal dopamine level, met-carriers may be able to develop a well formed and stable, spatially coded movement representation early in practice, thereby supporting the formation of a representation in motor coordinates in the course of extended practice, which later enables automatic movement execution. This process might also be enhanced by a prevalence of met-carriers to functionally evaluate positive feedback information (i.e., rewards) and to better maintain recent reward information in active working memory.


Automatization; Catechol-O-methyltransferase genotype; Dual task; Motor learning

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