Genetic Variation in S100B Modulates Neural Processing of Visual Scenes in Han Chinese

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Spatial navigation is a crucial ability for living. Previous animal studies have shown that the S100B gene is causally related to spatial navigation performance in mice. However, the genetic factors influencing human navigation and its neural substrates remain unclear. Here, we provided the first evidence that the S100B gene modulates neural processing of navigationally relevant scenes in humans. First, with a novel protocol, we demonstrated that the spatial pattern of S100B gene expression in postmortem brains was associated with brain activation pattern for spatial navigation in general, and for scene processing in particular. Further, in a large fMRI cohort of healthy adults of Han Chinese (N = 202), we found that S100B gene polymorphisms modulated scene selectivity in the retrosplenial cortex (RSC) and parahippocampal place area. Finally, the serum levels of S100B protein mediated the association between S100B gene polymorphism and scene selectivity in the RSC. Our study takes the first step toward understanding the neurogenetic mechanism of human spatial navigation and suggests a novel approach to discover candidate genes modulating cognitive functions.

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