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Preliminary investigation of the influence of dopamine regulating genes on social working memory


Working memory (WM) refers to mental processes that enable temporary retention and manipulation of information, including information about other people ("social working memory"). Previous studies have demonstrated that nonsocial WM is supported by dopamine neurotransmission. Here, we investigated in 131 healthy adults whether dopamine is similarly involved in social WM by testing whether social and nonsocial WM are influenced by genetic variants in three genes coding for molecules regulating the availability of dopamine in the brain: catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), dopamine active transporter (DAT), and monoamine-oxidase A (MAOA). An advantage for the Met allele of COMT was observed in the two standard WM tasks and in the social WM task. However, the influence of COMT on social WM performance was not accounted for by its influence on either standard WM paradigms. There was no main effect of DAT1 or MAOA, but a significant COMT x DAT1 interaction on social WM performance. This study provides novel preliminary evidence of effects of genetic variants of the dopamine neurotransmitter system on social cognition. The results further suggest that the effects observed on standard WM do not explain the genetic effects on effortful social cognition. © 2014 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis.

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