Genetic Variation of the α2B-Adrenoceptor Affects Neural Correlates of Successful Emotional Memory Formation

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Abstract

Objective: Enhanced memory for emotionally charged events helps us to remember potentially vital information. There are large interindividual differences in emotional-memory enhancement, but little is known about their neurobiological basis. Recently, a functional deletion variant of the gene that codes for the α2b-adrenoceptor (ADRA2B) has been shown to affect memory for emotional experiences. Initial neuroimaging evidence linked this behavioral effect to increased amygdala activity, but its influence on successful memory processing remains unknown. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the effect of the common deletion in the ADRA2B gene on neural activity related to specific mnemonic processing, successful memory formation, and retrieval. Methods: Twenty-three noncarriers (10 males) and 28 deletion carriers (13 males) with a mean age of 24 years were investigated while performing an emotional-learning task with sad and happy scenes. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was acquired both during memory formation and retrieval. Results: Although there were no differences in memory performance between groups, the common deletion variant of ADRA2B was related to enhanced activity in the amygdala and inferior frontal gyrus during successful emotional memory formation, but not retrieval. Deletion carriers showed a larger differential response in these brain regions between later-remembered and later-forgotten stimuli than nondeletion carriers did. Conclusion: Our results demonstrate that the ADRA2B polymorphism influences emotional memory formation but not memory retrieval in the amygdala and left inferior frontal gyrus. Hum Brain Mapp, 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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