Influence of the COMT Genotype on Working Memory and Brain Activity Changes During Development
ABSTRACT Background: The Valine158Methionine (Val158Met) polymorphism of the COMT gene leads to lower enzymatic activity and higher dopamine availability in Met carriers. The Met allele is associated with better performance and reduced prefrontal cortex activation during working memory (WM) tasks in adults. Dopaminergic system changes during adolescence may lead to a reduction of basal dopamine levels, potentially affecting Met allele benefits during development. Methods: We investigated the association of COMT genotype with behavioral (n 322) and magnetic resonance imaging data (n 81– 84) collected during performance of a visuospatial WM task and potential changes in these effects during development (reflected in age genotype interactions). Data were collected from a cross-sectional and longitudinal typically developing sample of 6-to 20-year-olds. Results: Visuospatial WM capacity exhibited an age genotype interaction, with a benefit of the Met allele emerging after 10 years of age. There was a parallel age genotype interaction on WM-related activation in the right inferior frontal gyrus and intraparietal sulcus (IPS), with increases in activation with age in the Val/Val group only. Main effects of COMT genotype were also observed in the IPS, with greater gray matter volumes bilaterally and greater right IPS activation in the Val/Val group compared with the Met carriers.
[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Genes are major contributors to many psychiatric diseases, but their mechanisms of action have long seemed elusive. The intermediate phenotype concept represents a strategy for characterizing the neural systems affected by risk gene variants to elucidate quantitative, mechanistic aspects of brain function implicated in psychiatric disease. Using imaging genetics as an example, we illustrate recent advances, challenges and implications of linking genes to structural and functional variation in brain systems related to cognition and emotion.Nature reviews. Neuroscience 11/2006; 7(10):818-27. · 30.44 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia has been one of the most enduring ideas in psychiatry. Initially, the emphasis was on a role of hyperdopaminergia in the etiology of schizophrenia (version I), but it was subsequently reconceptualized to specify subcortical hyperdopaminergia with prefrontal hypodopaminergia (version II). However, these hypotheses focused too narrowly on dopamine itself, conflated psychosis and schizophrenia, and predated advances in the genetics, molecular biology, and imaging research in schizophrenia. Since version II, there have been over 6700 articles about dopamine and schizophrenia. We selectively review these data to provide an overview of the 5 critical streams of new evidence: neurochemical imaging studies, genetic evidence, findings on environmental risk factors, research into the extended phenotype, and animal studies. We synthesize this evidence into a new dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia-version III: the final common pathway. This hypothesis seeks to be comprehensive in providing a framework that links risk factors, including pregnancy and obstetric complications, stress and trauma, drug use, and genes, to increased presynaptic striatal dopaminergic function. It explains how a complex array of pathological, positron emission tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and other findings, such as frontotemporal structural and functional abnormalities and cognitive impairments, may converge neurochemically to cause psychosis through aberrant salience and lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The hypothesis has one major implication for treatment approaches. Current treatments are acting downstream of the critical neurotransmitter abnormality. Future drug development and research into etiopathogenesis should focus on identifying and manipulating the upstream factors that converge on the dopaminergic funnel point.Schizophrenia Bulletin 04/2009; 35(3):549-62. · 8.80 Impact Factor
Article: Developmental changes in multivariate neuroanatomical patterns that predict risk for psychosis in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: The primary objective of the current prospective study was to examine developmental patterns of voxel-by-voxel gray and white matter volumes (GMV, WMV, respectively) that would predict psychosis in adolescents with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11.2DS), the most common known genetic risk factor for schizophrenia. We performed a longitudinal voxel-based morphometry analysis using structural T1 MRI scans from 19 individuals with 22q11.2DS and 18 typically developing individuals. In 22q11.2DS, univariate analysis showed that greater reduction in left dorsal prefrontal cortical (dPFC) GMV over time predicted greater psychotic symptoms at Time2. This dPFC region also showed significantly reduced volumes in 22q11.2DS compared to typically developing individuals at Time1 and 2, greater reduction over time in 22q11.2DS COMT(Met) compared to COMT(Val), and greater reduction in those with greater decline in verbal IQ over time. Leave-one-out Multivariate pattern analysis results (MVPA) on the other hand, showed that patterns of GM and WM morphometric changes over time in regions including but not limited to the dPFC predicted risk for psychotic symptoms (94.7-100% accuracy) significantly better than using univariate analysis (63.1%). Additional predictive brain regions included medial PFC and dorsal cingulum. This longitudinal prospective study shows novel evidence of morphometric spatial patterns predicting the development of psychotic symptoms in 22q11.2DS, and further elucidates the abnormal maturational processes in 22q11.2DS. The use of neuroimaging using MVPA may hold promise to predict outcome in a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders.Journal of psychiatric research 03/2011; 45(3):322-31. · 3.72 Impact Factor
Influence of the COMT Genotype on Working Memory
and Brain Activity Changes During Development
Iroise Dumontheil, Chantal Roggeman, Tim Ziermans, Myriam Peyrard-Janvid, Hans Matsson,
Juha Kere, and Torkel Klingberg
Background: The Valine158Methionine (Val158Met) polymorphism of the COMT gene leads to lower enzymatic activity and higher
dopamine availability in Met carriers. The Met allele is associated with better performance and reduced prefrontal cortex activation during
potentially affecting Met allele benefits during development.
collected during performance of a visuospatial WM task and potential changes in these effects during development (reflected in age ?
genotype interactions). Data were collected from a cross-sectional and longitudinal typically developing sample of 6- to 20-year-olds.
increases in activation with age in the Val/Val group only. Main effects of COMT genotype were also observed in the IPS, with greater gray
matter volumes bilaterally and greater right IPS activation in the Val/Val group compared with the Met carriers.
of healthy adult or psychiatric populations.
Key Words: Child development, functional magnetic resonance
imaging (fMRI), genetics, gray matter, voxel-based morphometry
(VBM), working memory
as a promising candidate gene for studying variance in cognitive
function and mental illness (1,2). Developmental studies of this
system and provide a reference for the study of developmental
disorders that have been linked to dopamine system dysfunction,
(2,4,5), although the evidence is inconsistent (e.g., ).
The common rs4680 Valine158Methionine (Val158Met) single
nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) leads to a reduction of COMT en-
tion has been extensively studied in adults, both in typical and
neuropsychiatric populations. Better working memory (WM) per-
formance (e.g., in N-back tasks), fewer perseverative errors, and
higher IQ tend to be associated with the Met allele in healthy
individuals (9–11), although some studies have failed to replicate
studies, Val/Val adults tend to exhibit greater prefrontal cortex
in particular dopamine, has attracted considerable attention
(PFC) activation during WM tasks than Met/Met individuals (12,13).
Structural imaging studies report less consistent results (14–16).
In children and adolescents, effects of COMT genotype in spe-
cific age groups have been reported on brain structure (17–19),
resting brain perfusion (20), and brain activation in response to
emotional stimuli (17). Behavioral findings are mixed (21–23). This
lack of consistency may arise from age differences in the effect of
COMT genotype on cognition.
Dopamine effects on behavior follow an inverted U-shaped
dopamine activity predicting poor cognitive task performance
(24,25). The Met/Met adults are thought to be near the apex of this
curve, while Val carriers lay toward the lower end because of the
There is some evidence that the dopamine system undergoes
PFC and parietal cortex peak around puberty (2–3 years), while
5 months of age (28,29). Dopaminergic input in the PFC also peaks
varicosities (30–32). In humans, postmortem studies of the PFC
have shown that dopamine concentration is highest during early
postnatal development (33), while D1 receptor density peaks in
adolescents (age 14–18) and young adults compared with neo-
nates, infants, adults, and aged adults (33). In the living brain, a
decrease in D1 receptor binding was observed in the PFC and
overall suggest a decrease in dopamine levels from puberty to
adulthood (23). Little information is available regarding potential
A decrease in basal dopamine level between childhood and
the inverted U-shaped curve and lead to a differential effect of
From the Neuroscience Department (ID, CR, TZ, TK), Karolinska Institutet,
Stockholm; Department of Biosciences and Nutrition (MP-J, HM, JK),
Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge; and Science for Life Laboratory (JK),
Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at Novum, Karolinska Institu-
tet, Stockholm, Sweden; and Department of Medical Genetics (JK),
Haartman Institute, University of Helsinki, and Folkhälsan Institute of
Genetics, Helsinki, Finland.
Address correspondence to Iroise Dumontheil, Ph.D., Karolinksa Institutet,
Received Nov 19, 2010; revised Feb 24, 2011; accepted Feb 24, 2011.
BIOL PSYCHIATRY 2011;xx:xxx
© 2011 Society of Biological Psychiatry
in the effect of COMT genotype with age on behavioral and neuro-
imaging data associated with visuospatial WM, a cognitive ability
that develops during childhood and adolescence (35).
Methods and Materials
Participants and Genetic Data
Participants in nine different age groups (6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18,
20, and 25 years) were recruited using random sampling from the
population registry in Nynäshamn in Sweden (Brainchild study
). Informed consent was obtained from the participants and
from the parents of children under 18. The study was approved by
the local ethics committee of the Karolinska University Hospital,
Stockholm. See Figure 1 and Table 1 for a description of included
participants. Deoxyribonucleic acid was extracted either from
blood or saliva. The COMT genotype is located on chromosome
for details of the genetic analyses and excluded participants).
Assessment of Working Memory
Participants completed a large neuropsychological battery ad-
ministered individually and in a quiet room. Visuospatial WM was
assessed using a grid task (Dot Matrix) from the Automated Work-
ing Memory Assessment battery (37). This computerized task in-
volves remembering the location and order of dots displayed se-
quentially in a four-by-four grid, for 1000 milliseconds each, with a
level, where one more dot needed to be remembered. The test
terminated when three errors were committed on one level. The
score used was the total number of correct trials.
Dot Matrix Statistical Analyses
Linear mixed model analyses, which allow the inclusion of data
from participants who have not attended all testing waves and
adjust for intercorrelation between testing waves (38-40), were
performed using the PASW 18.0 statistical package (41). A com-
pound symmetry covariance structure was used and Dot Matrix
score was treated as a repeated measure (rounds 1 and 2). We first
identified how to best model changes in WM capacity with age,
of age (ln[age]) (42,43). In all cases, age was transformed into Z-
Sex and sex ? age were entered as covariates. The best model was
mation criterion (45,46).
We then tested whether including COMT genotype and age ?
COMT genotype as additional fixed effects improved the model.
Genotype ? sex and genotype ? age ? sex interactions were also
included to test for potential sex differences in the effect of COMT
genotype (47). Although the effect of rs4680 on dopamine degra-
dation is additive, the effect on cognition is suggested to follow a
nonlinear, inverted-U curve. To allow the detection of such effects,
and dominance models (Val dominance: 0 ? Met/Met, 1 ? Val
carriers; Met dominance: 0 ? Met carriers, 1 ? Val/Val) (similar to
Brain Imaging: fMRI
Magnetic resonance imaging data were collected on a 1.5 T
Siemens scanner (Siemens, Erlangen, Germany) (Supplement 1).
Participants performed two 5-minute sessions, each including 16
WM and 16 control trials in a pseudorandomized order. Dots were
presented sequentially in a four-by-four grid. To reduce potential
age or genotype differences in behavior, the task included load 2
a number was presented in the grid. Participants were asked to
indicate whether the number and its position in the grid matched.
For example, “2?” would prompt the participant to indicate
Figure 1. Distribution of the data points across round 1
and round 2 according to age and COMT genotype in
above each bar (round 1 n / round 2 n). fMRI, functional
magnetic resonance imaging; Met, Methionine; Val, Va-
line; VBM, voxel-based morphometry.
Table 1. Distribution of the Participants and Longitudinal Measures According to COMT Genotype in Each of the Three Analyses
Behavioral AnalysisfMRI AnalysisVBM Analysis
Participants Total n M/FParticipantsTotal nM/F ParticipantsTotal nM/F
The numbers in brackets indicate the number of subjects with repeated measures.
F, female; fMRI, functional magnetic resonance imaging; M, male; Met, Methionine; Val, Valine; VBM, voxel-based morphometry.
2 BIOL PSYCHIATRY 2011;xx:xxx
I. Dumontheil et al.
whether the second circle had appeared in the grid position filled
the corners of the grid and the cue (“8?”) always required a “no”
Preprocessing and statistical analysis (36) were carried out with
SPM5 (http://www.fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk/spm/software/spm5). Contrast
for each participant were used in flexible factorial design second-
level analyses that modeled whether the contrasts were from the
same or different participants by including subject and testing
round as factors. This permitted the inclusion in a single analysis of
transformed into Z-score (ageZ).
First, ageZand sex were entered as covariates and the main
WM-control contrast was performed, correcting for multiple com-
(FDR) threshold of p ? .05, to identify regions recruited during the
task. Then, genotype and genotype ? ageZwere entered as addi-
inant or Val dominant effect. In each model, a single F-test was
performed to test whether any main effect of genotype or age ?
genotype interaction could be observed (FDR, p ? .05). Contrasts
were inclusively masked by the WM-control main effect previously
ulation-Average, Landmark- and Surface-Based atlas) (49,50) using
the Caret software (http://www.nitrc.org/projects/caret/) (51).
Mean parameter estimates from the first level contrasts were ob-
tained in the significant clusters using MarsBar (52) and further
analyzed using linear mixed models with PASW 18.0.
Brain Imaging: Voxel-Based Morphometry
Structural T1-weighted spin echo images were acquired with a
Following segmentation of the T1-weighted images, high-dimen-
sional normalization was performed using the Diffeomorphic Ana-
statistical parametric mapping (53). The modulated warped gray
matter (GM) images were then smoothed with an 8 mm Gaussian
the addition of total GM volume as a covariate.
Analyses combined data from all participants and both testing
rounds using linear mixed models. The complicated nonindepen-
dent design did not allow the calculation of standardized effect
statistics (54). Effect sizes from analyses performed on the round 1
data only are reported in Supplement 1.
WM Capacity Development. Behavioral data were available
for 322 participants, including 260 with longitudinal data. We first
compared the information criteria of three different models (with
the age variable as ageZ, age?1
model of WM capacity development. Linear mixed model analyses
included Dot Matrix score as the dependent variable, and sex, age,
and their interaction were entered as fixed effects. The best model
was where WM capacity was explained by age?1
Z, or ln[age]Z) to identify the best
Z, with a steeper
Influence of COMT Genotype on WM Capacity Devel-
opment. We then tested whether including the main effect of
model. Genotype ? sex and genotype ? age ? sex interactions
Val dominance, or Met dominance.
of the data compared with the age and sex only model (likelihood-
ratio test, D ? 9.77, 4 degrees of freedom, p ? .045). The only
significant effects observed in this full model were a main effect of
Z[F(1,502.7) ? 171.01, p ? .001] and an interaction between
genotype (Met/Met vs. Val carriers) and age?1
p ? .036]. The Met/Met individuals switched from being poorer
performers during childhood to being the better performers from
mid-adolescence onward (Figure 2). According to the model esti-
interactions between sex and other variables had a significant ef-
fect on behavior.
Z[F(1,500.1) ? 4.40,
aging data were available for 81 participants, including 44 with
respond (correct trials only, WM: 1277 msec ? 360; control condi-
tion: 738 msec ? 215) [t(124) ? 25.11, p ? .001]. The difference
both accuracy and reaction time [main effect of age?1
tively, F(1,87.8) ? 10.06, p ? .002, and F(1,97.1) ? 32.05, p ? .001];
interaction (all p’s ? .29). Genotype thus did not affect WM versus
control condition performance. Furthermore, only correct trials
were used in the brain activity analyses.
WM-Control Main Effect. Functional magnetic resonance im-
aging data were analyzed using a flexible factorial second-level
testing and COMT Valine158Methionine polymorphism. The bars are in-
cluded for illustrative purposes only and represent the mean and standard
error of working memory capacity, as measured by the Dot Matrix score, in
each age group, collapsing across longitudinal and cross-sectional data.
were performed with age as a covariate rather than considering the age
the inverse of age as a factor and genotype effects with Valine dominance.
Met, Methionine; SE, standard error; Val, Valine.
I. Dumontheil et al.
BIOL PSYCHIATRY 2011;xx:xxx 3
analysis of the WM-control contrast, which coded subject and test-
ing round as factors and ageZand sex as covariates. Because of the
tested in statistical parametric mapping analyses. The resulting
WM-control contrast image (FDR, p ? .05) was saved and used as a
regions was more active in the WM than the control condition
COMT genotype and genotype ? ageZwere added as additional
an additive effect, or with Val or Met dominance. Interactions be-
in the follow-up analyses only. In each analysis, a single F-test as-
sessed whether genotype or genotype ? ageZhad significant ef-
fects (FDR, p ? .05, within WM-control mask). Only the Met domi-
nance model resulted in significant clusters located in the right
inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and in the posterior section of the right
intraparietal sulcus (IPS)/angular gyrus (Figure 3B and Table 2; Fig-
ure S1 in Supplement 1).
Mean parameter estimates from the individual first-level WM-
control contrasts were obtained for these two clusters. Linear
that the parietal cluster exhibited both a main effect of genotype,
an age by genotype interaction, with an increase in activation with
age in the Val/Val participants only [Val/Val, F(1,22.5) ? 21.5, p ?
.001; Met carriers, p ? .2]. The frontal cluster exhibited an age by
genotype interaction with a similar pattern [Val/Val, F(1,20.3) ?
25.9, p ? .001; Met carriers, p ? .4] (Figure 3B). Note that for both
Figure 3. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and voxel-based morphometry results. (A) Render of the fMRI main effect working memory
(WM)-control (false discovery rate [FDR], p ? .05) on a surface-based human atlas (see Methods and Materials). From left to right: lateral view of the left and
right hemispheres, dorsal view of the left and right hemispheres. This contrast was used as an inclusive mask for the tests of the effect of COMT genotype
presented in (B) and (C). (B) F-test of COMT genotype or genotype ? age effects on the fMRI WM-control contrast (FDR, p ? .05). Mean parameter estimates
additional main effect of genotype in the parietal cluster. (C) F-test of COMT genotype or genotype ? age effects on the voxel-based morphometry gray
matter data (FDR, p ? .05). Mean gray matter volume was calculated and plotted for the two largest parietal clusters (Table 2). Full lines connect those
interaction was significant in both clusters (Figure S1 in Supplement 1). COMT, catechol-O-methyltransferase; GM, gray matter; Met, Methionine; Val, Valine.
4 BIOL PSYCHIATRY 2011;xx:xxx
I. Dumontheil et al.
clusters the genotype effects were significant when using age?1
but the information criteria indicated that the models including
suggestion that PFC functioning and WM performance follow an
inverted-U curve function of dopamine levels.
The main effect of genotype and age ? genotype interaction
remained significant (p’s ? .001) when including genotype ? sex,
the IPS, the main effect of genotype tended to be greater in male
subjects, while in the IFG the interaction between age and geno-
type tended to be greater in male subjects (Table 2).
Further analyses (Figures S2 and S3 in Supplement 1) indicated
that activations in the IFG and IPS clusters were more strongly
correlated in the Val/Val group and that these participants also
showed a positive correlation between IFG activation and Dot Ma-
Structural magnetic resonance imaging data were available for
84 participants, including 47 with longitudinal data. The effects of
rs4680 on GM volumes were analyzed in the same way as for the
fMRI data. Total GM volumeZwas included as an additional covari-
ate to permit the study of regional rather than global effects. How-
ever, similar results were obtained when total GM volume was not
Again, only the Met dominance model resulted in significant
clusters, located in the lateral bank of the IPS bilaterally (Figure 3C
and Table 2; Figure S1 in Supplement 1). Individual mean GM vol-
umes were calculated for each cluster. Linear mixed level model
analyses indicated that all three clusters showed a main effect of
genotype, with greater GM volumes in Val/Val participants than
Met carriers. There was a weak trend in the largest cluster for a
genotype by age interaction, with a steeper decrease in GM with
age in the Val/Val individuals than Met carriers. The main effects of
sex interactions in the model. Significant interactions between sex
effect of genotype was greater in males than females.
This longitudinal and cross-sectional study of 6- to 20-year-olds
combined a large sample and full age range of participants to
investigate developmental changes in the effect of a functional
brain function. Previous studies of children and adolescents ob-
served inconsistent COMT genotype effects and were restricted by
either a small age range (21) or a small sample size (22,23). Our
results show that the adult pattern of the effects of the COMT
Met/Met individuals showed a steeper increase in performance
with age than Val carriers, while Val/Val individuals exhibited an
increase in activation in the right IFG and right IPS/angular gyrus
parietal cortex for both fMRI and gray matter data, with larger
WM task included only relatively low WM loads and a control task,
while the behavioral score reflected the performance achieved up
to the participants’ maximum WM load level. In addition, behavior
may reflect more complex and global dopamine effects on brain
activity and structure in a wide network of brain regions.
homozygotes switched from being the underperformers to follow
to 12 years old, typically considered as the start of puberty. Barnett
bertal boys or girls. This pattern was not observed on other mea-
Table 2. COMT Genetic Effects on the fMRI and VBM Data
Linear Mixed Model Analyses
Labelx, y, z (MNI)nZ
rs4680 ? ageZ
rs4680 ? sexb
rs4680 ? ageZ? sexb
Inferior Frontal Gyrus
VBM: Gray Matter Volumes
Lateral bank IPS
Lateral bank IPS
Lateral bank IPS
40 ?74 3677 5.05 .007F(1,69.2) ? 18.15c
F(1,89.8) ? 11.96d
F(1,67.3) ? 3.55e
54 8 24 174.19 .023 nsF(1,83.0) ? 22.84f
nsF(1,79.3) ? 3.10e
?42 ?36 38
47 ?33 45
42 ?43 35
F(1,82.2) ? 18.94c
F(1,81.2) ? 18.64c
F(1,82.6) ? 15.66d
F(1,64.9) ? 2.77e
F(1,80.4) ? 4.39h
F(1,80.6) ? 7.44g
p ? .05 and inclusively masked by the fMRI main effect of WM-control (FDR, p ? .05). The right section of the table reports the statistical results obtained in
follow-up linear mixed model analyses.
aFixed effects comprised rs4680, ageZ, sex, and rs4680 ? ageZ(and total GM volumeZfor VBM analyses).
bFixed effects comprised, in addition toa, rs4680 ? sex, ageZ? sex, and rs4680 ? ageZ? sex.
cp ? .0001.
dp ? .001.
ep ? .10.
fp ? .00001.
gp ? .01.
hp ? .05.
I. Dumontheil et al.
BIOL PSYCHIATRY 2011;xx:xxx 5
did not evaluate pubertal state. However, WM capacity showed no
by age as reflecting a changing dopamine system during develop-
ment, independent of possible additional interactions with hor-
risk factor (odds ratio 1.12) for smoking (58). Smoking is associated
with lower WM in adults, while the evidence is mixed in younger
ers compared with Met/Met individuals may thus partly reflect in-
creased smoking during adolescence, particularly in Val carriers.
allele and smoking and between smoking and WM are weak and
therefore unlikely to explain the entire effect observed here.
The effects of genotype and genotype ? age interactions also
remained significant in the neuroimaging data when interactions
(trend in the right IPS) and GM volumes (bilateral IPS) exhibited an
interaction between sex and genotype, with greater genotype ef-
fects in males than females. In addition, a greater interaction effect
on IFG activation tended to be observed in males. There is wide-
ders (47). Estrogens have been implicated to explain these sex
differences, as they are thought to downregulate COMT activity
(47). The current study included only small age groups when split
for sex. This limitation and the lack of pubertal stage information
prevented us from investigating sex differences during develop-
ment in more detail.
Our findings of rs4680 effects on GM volumes are consistent
with previous evidence for an effect of this polymorphism on both
adolescent and adult GM volumes (14,16) and cortical thickness
(15,18). However, the locations of the observed effects differ be-
tween studies, which may be due to differences in methodology
and age of the participants. The SNP rs4680 is a functional variant
and could be thought to affect brain function but not brain struc-
ment is affected by synaptic functioning (60,61). Thus, during mat-
type by age interaction observed in the VBM compared with the
fMRI and behavioral data may be because these processes occur
over a protracted period and are not as flexible and rapid as func-
tional changes in brain activity.
It is unclear yet what the greater parietal GM volumes observed
in Val/Val individuals across ages precisely reflect and why the Val
a combination of cortical thickness, cortical surface area, and vol-
ume data may provide more insight on the underlying develop-
mental changes in structure (62). A possible interpretation of the
results of this study relates them to the altered trajectories of brain
structure maturation reported in developmental psychiatric disor-
ders (63). For example, delayed peaks in cortical thickness in atten-
tion-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (64), a disorder associated with
visuospatial WM impairments (65), lead to increased cortical thick-
ness in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder during late child-
hood and early adolescence. In the current study, Val/Val partici-
pants had greater gray matter volumes in the parietal cortex and
showed poorer WM capacity from mid-adolescence onward.
The effects of COMT genotype we observed were not limited to
(34) and correlation between D1 receptor availability and COMT
receptor density and change in WM capacity after training are cor-
related in both prefrontal and parietal cortex (67). Recent multi-
modal studies combining positron emission tomography and fMRI
tified parietal and lateral PFC regions similar to the clusters ob-
ity, and WM activity and their relation to a hypothetical
basal dopamine concentration. Brain activity is from the
right lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC). Eight- and 18-year-
old age groups were chosen to illustrate the changes in
the influence of COMT genotype on WM function during
calculated using the Dot Matrix scores of the 8- and 18-
for each COMT genotype. The three COMT genotypes
were accordingly located on the hypothetical inverted-U
[25,27]). Here, an arbitrary Gaussian curve was used. On
the bottom row, similar steps were applied to the WM-
control activation in the right lateral PFC. Note that
greater brain activation is associated with worse perfor-
mance (27), and thus the y axis is inverted to highlight the
similarities between the behavioral and imaging results.
Eight-year-olds showed a detrimental effect of the Methio-
pattern of a beneficial effect of the Met allele, with higher
WM capacity and lower brain activity in the frontal cortex.
This pattern of change in genotype effect with age can be
regardedas a shift during development of the position of
the COMT Valine158Met genotypes on the inverted-U
curve of PFC function relative to dopamine levels in the
direction of lower basal dopamine levels. Met, Methio-
nine; PFC, prefrontal cortex; Val, Valine.
6 BIOL PSYCHIATRY 2011;xx:xxx
I. Dumontheil et al.
levels in interconnected subcortical regions (68–70).
emergence from age 12 of the adult pattern of COMT genotype
effects. Prefrontal cortex functioning and WM performance have
been suggested to follow an inverted-U curve function of dopa-
mine levels (24), with adult rs4680 Met/Met individuals near the
apex of this curve (2). The pattern observed in children (Figure 4)
in WM performance observed in Val/Val adults administered am-
phetamine, which increases basal dopamine levels (27). Thus, our
findings are compatible with a decrease in basal dopamine levels
opment of the dopamine system in humans.
WM capacity in the parietal cortex (71). The Val/Val individuals
showed an increase in prefrontal and parietal activation during
adolescence, a greater correlation between the activation in these
two clusters than Met carriers, and a correlation between greater
WM activity in the right IFG and better WM capacity outside the
from frontal to parietal cortex may be gradually implemented dur-
ing adolescence in Val/Val individuals to compensate for deficient
amounts of dopamine levels and parietal functioning.
ciated with the incidence of developmental psychiatric disorders,
elucidating the role of genetics in determining brain function dur-
ing childhood and adolescence is critical to our understanding of
the development of these disorders. The findings presented here
show that the full developmental picture should be considered
when trying to understand the impact of genetic polymorphisms
This work was supported by Knut and Alice Wallenberg Founda-
tennial Foundation Grant in the program “Learning and Memory in
Sjöwall, and Sissela Bergman Nutley for help with study administra-
tion; Keith Humphreys for statistics help; Kerstin Eriksson and Tomas
Jonsson for scanning; and the Mutation Analysis Core Facility at the
The authors report no biomedical financial interests or potential
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