The ADRA2B gene in the production of false memories for affective information in healthy female volunteers

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False memories are common memory distortions in everyday life and seem to increase with affectively connoted complex information. In line with recent studies showing a significant interaction between the noradrenergic system and emotional memory, we investigated whether healthy volunteer carriers of the deletion variant of the ADRA2B gene that codes for the α2b-adrenergic receptor are more prone to false memories than non-carriers. In this study, we collected genotype data from 212 healthy female volunteers; 91 ADRA2B carriers and 121 non-carriers. To assess gene effects on false memories for affective information, factorial mixed model analysis of variances (ANOVAs) were conducted with genotype as the between-subjects factor and type of memory error as the within-subjects factor. We found that although carriers and non-carriers made comparable numbers of false memory errors, they showed differences in the direction of valence biases, especially for inferential causal errors. Specifically, carriers produced fewer causal false memory errors for scripts with a negative outcome, whereas non-carriers showed a more general emotional effect and made fewer causal errors with both positive and negative outcomes. These findings suggest that putatively higher levels of noradrenaline in deletion carriers may enhance short-term consolidation of negative information and lead to fewer memory distortions when facing negative events.

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