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Genes Brain Behav. 2012 Nov;11(8):986-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2012.00838.x. Epub 2012 Sep 7.

COMT val158met predicts reward responsiveness in humans.

Author information

1
School of Medical Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2AS, UK.
2
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsInstitute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences.
3
School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.
4
School of Psychology, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2AS, UK.

Abstract

A functional variant of the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene [val158met (rs4680)] is frequently implicated in decision-making and higher cognitive functions. It may achieve its effects by modulating dopamine-related decision-making and reward-guided behaviour. Here we demonstrate that individuals with the met/met polymorphism have greater responsiveness to reward than carriers of the val allele and that this correlates with risk-seeking behaviour. We assessed performance on a reward responsiveness task and the Balloon analogue risk task, which measure how participants (N = 70, western European, university and postgraduate students) respond to reward and take risks in the presence of available reward. Individuals with the met/met genotype (n = 19) showed significantly higher reward responsiveness, F2,64 = 4.02, P = 0.02, and reward-seeking behaviour, F(2,68) = 4.52, P = 0.01, than did either val/met (n = 25) or val/val (n = 26) carriers. These results highlight a scenario in which genotype-dependent reward responsiveness shapes reward-seeking, therefore suggesting a novel framework by which COMT may modulate behaviour.

KEYWORDS:

COMT; decision-making; dopamine; genetics; individual differences; reward; risk-taking

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