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Genetic modulation of the response bias towards facial displays of anger and happiness

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 April 2020

B. Gohier*
Université d’Angers, CHU Angers, Département de Psychiatrie, Angers, France Laboratoire de Psychologie des Pays de la Loire, EA 4638, Université d’Angers, Angers, France
C. Senior
School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham, UK
J. Radua
Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK FIDMAG, CIBERSAM, Sant Boi de Llobregat, Spain
W. El-Hage
Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK Inserm U930, Université François Rabelais, CHRU de Tours, Tours, France
A. Reichenberg
Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK
P. Proitsi
Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK
M.L. Phillips
Department of Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA Department of Psychological Medicine, Cardiff University School of Medicine, Cardiff, UK
S.A. Surguladze
Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK Cygnet Health Care, London, UK
*Corresponding author. CHU, Département de psychiatrie, 4, rue Larrey, 49933 Angers cedex, France. Tel.: +33 2 41 35 32 44; fax: +33 2 41 35 49 35. E-mail address: (B. Gohier).
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Investigating genetic modulation of emotion processing may contribute to the understanding of heritable mechanisms of emotional disorders. The aim of the present study was to test the effects of catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) val158met and serotonin-transporter-linked promoter region (5-HTTLPR) polymorphisms on facial emotion processing in healthy individuals.


Two hundred and seventy five (167 female) participants were asked to complete a computerized facial affect recognition task, which involved four experimental conditions, each containing one type of emotional face (fearful, angry, sad or happy) intermixed with neutral faces. Participants were asked to indicate whether the face displayed an emotion or was neutral. The COMT-val158met and 5-HTTLPR polymorphisms were genotyped.


Met homozygotes (COMT) showed a stronger bias to perceive neutral faces as expressions of anger, compared with val homozygotes. However, the S-homozygotes (5-HTTLPR) showed a reduced bias to perceive neutral faces as expressions of happiness, compared to L-homozygotes. No interaction between 5-HTTLPR and COMT was found.


These results add to the knowledge of individual differences in social cognition that are modulated via serotonergic and dopaminergic systems. This potentially could contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms of susceptibility to emotional disorders.

Original articles
Copyright © European Psychiatric Association 2014

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These authors contributed equally to the study.


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