Association of the Serotonin Transporter Gene Promoter Region (5-HTTLPR) Polymorphism With Biased Attention for Emotional Stimuli

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Abstract

A deletion polymorphism in the serotonin transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) has been associated with vulnerability to affective disorders, yet the mechanism by which this gene confers vulnerability remains unclear. Two studies examined associations between the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism and attentional bias for emotional stimuli among nondepressed adults. Biased attention, attention engagement, and difficulty with attention disengagement were assessed with a spatial cuing task using emotional stimuli. Results from Study 1 (N = 38) indicated that short 5-HTTLPR allele carriers experienced greater difficulty disengaging their attention from sad and happy stimuli compared with long allele homozygotes. Study 2 participants (N = 144) were genotyped for the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism, including single nucleotide polymorphism rs25531 in the long allele of the 5-HTTLPR. Consistent with Study 1, individuals homozygous for the low-expressing 5-HTTLPR alleles (i.e., S and LG) experienced greater difficulty disengaging attention from sad, happy, and fear stimuli than high-expressing 5-HTTLPR homozygotes. Because this association exists in healthy adults, it may represent a susceptibility factor for affective disorders that becomes problematic during stressful life experiences.

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Beevers, C. G., Wells, T. T., Ellis, A. J., & McGeary, J. E. (2009). Association of the Serotonin Transporter Gene Promoter Region (5-HTTLPR) Polymorphism With Biased Attention for Emotional Stimuli. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 118(3), 670–681. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016198

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