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The DOPA decarboxylase (DDC) gene is associated with alerting attention


DOPA decarboxylase (DDC) is involved in the synthesis of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. It has been suggested that genes involved in the dopamine, norepinephrine, and cholinergic systems play an essential role in the efficiency of human attention networks. Attention refers to the cognitive process of obtaining and maintaining the alert state, orienting to sensory events, and regulating the conflicts of thoughts and behavior. The present study tested seven single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the DDC gene for association with attention, which was assessed by the Attention Network Test to detect three networks of attention, including alerting, orienting, and executive attention, in a healthy Han Chinese sample (N=451). Association analysis for individual SNPs indicated that four of the seven SNPs (rs3887825, rs7786398, rs10499695, and rs6969081) were significantly associated with alerting attention. Haplotype-based association analysis revealed that alerting was associated with the haplotype G-A-T for SNPs rs7786398-rs10499695-rs6969081. These associations remained significant after correcting for multiple testing by max(T) permutation. No association was found for orienting and executive attention. This study provides the first evidence for the involvement of the DDC gene in alerting attention. A better understanding of the genetic basis of distinct attention networks would allow us to develop more effective diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of deficient or underdeveloped alerting attention as well as its related prevalent neuropsychiatric disorders.

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