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Warriors Versus Worriers: The Role of COMT Gene Variants

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 November 2014


Behavioral phenotypes are generally complex, reflecting the action of multiple different genes. Nevertheless, there is growing evidence that key gene variants can alter activity within specific neuronal circuits and, therefore, influence particular cognitive-affective phenomena. One example is the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene, which has a common variant at codon 158. Those with valine (Val158) alleles have increased greater COMT activity and lower prefrontal extracellular dopamine compared with those with the methionine (Met158) substitution. Val158 alleles may be associated with an advantage in the processing of aversive stimuli (warrior strategy), while Met158 alleles may be associated with an advantage in memory and attention tasks (worrier strategy). Under conditions of increased dopamine release (eg, stress), individuals with Val158 alleles may have improved dopaminergic transmission and better performance. while individuals with Met158 alleles may have less efficient neurotransmission and worse performance. Some evidence suggests that Val158 alleles are associated with schizophrenia, while Met158 alleles are associated with anxiety.

Pearls in Clinical Neuroscience
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006

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