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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2019 May 23. pii: pyz024. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyz024. [Epub ahead of print]

The role of DRD1 and DRD2 receptors for response selection under varying complexity levels - implications for metacontrol processes.

Author information

Cognitive Neurophysiology, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine of the TU Dresden, Germany.
Department of Human Genetics, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany.
Cognitive Psychology Unit and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands.
Department of Cognitive Psychology, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany.
Institute for Sports and Sport Science, University of Kassel, Kassel, Germany.



Highly complex tasks generally benefit from increases in cognitive control, which has been linked to dopamine. Yet, the same amount of control may actually be detrimental in tasks with low complexity, so that the task-dependent allocation of cognitive control resources (also known as "metacontrol") is key to expedient and adaptive behavior in various contexts.


Given that dopamine D1 and D2 receptors have been suggested to exert opposing effects on cognitive control, we investigated the impact of two single nucleotide polymorphisms in the DRD1 (rs4532) and DRD2 (rs6277) genes on metacontrol in n=194 healthy young adults. Subjects performed two consecutive tasks that differed in their demand for control (starting with the less complex task and then performing a more complex task rule).


We found carriers of the DRD1 rs4532 G allele to outperform non-carriers in case of high control requirements (i.e. revealed a better response accuracy), but not in case of low control requirements. This was confirmed by Bayesian analyses. No effects of DRD2 rs6277 genotype on either task were evident, again confirmed by Bayesian analyses.


Our findings suggest that higher DRD1 receptor efficiency improves performance during high, but not low, control requirements, probably by promoting a "D1 state" which is characterized by highly stable task set representations. The null findings for DRD2 signaling might be explained by the fact that the "D2 state" is thought to enhance flexible switching between task set representations, when our task only featured one task set at any given time.


DRD1 ; DRD2 ; cognitive control; dopamine; dual state theory; metacontrol


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