Serotonin transporter genotype (5-HTTLPR) and electrocortical responses indicating the sensitivity to negative emotional cues.
Papousek I., Reiser EM., Schulter G., Fink A., Holmes EA., Niederstätter H., Nagl S., Parson W., Weiss EM.
Growing literature indicates that emotional reactivity and regulation are strongly linked to genetic modulation of serotonergic neurotransmission. However, until now, most studies have focused on the relationship between genotypic markers, in particular the serotonin transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR), and neural structures using MRI. The current study aimed to bridge the gap between the relevant MRI literature on the effects of the 5-HTTLPR genotype and the research tradition focusing on transient lateralized changes of electrocortical activity in the prefrontal cortex using electroencephalography (EEG). Lateral shifts of EEG alpha asymmetry in response to an aversive film consisting of scenes of real injury and death were assessed in healthy participants (n = 165). To evaluate the specificity of the 5-HTTLPR effect, participants were also tested for the COMT Val158Met polymorphism which is linked to dopamine inactivation. While viewing the film, individuals homozygous for the 5-HTTLPR short allele displayed a clear lateral shift of dorsolateral frontal activity to the right, which was virtually absent in participants carrying the long allele. The heightened electrocortical response to the aversive stimulation and its direction indicates a greater propensity of s/s homozygotes to experience withdrawal oriented affect in response to negative emotion cues in the environment. Moreover, together with previous research the findings support the notion of a link between the serotonergic system and self-regulation related to avoidance motivation, and a link between the dopaminergic system and self-regulation related to approach motivation.