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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.

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


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.


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

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