ADRA2Bdeletion variant influences time-dependent effects of pre-learning stress on long-term memory

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Abstract

Extensive work over the past few decades has shown that certain genetic variations interact with life events to confer increased susceptibility for the development of psychological disorders. The deletion variant of the ADRA2B gene, which has been associated with enhanced emotional memory and heightened amygdala responses to emotional stimuli, might confer increased susceptibility for the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or related phenotypes by increasing the likelihood of traumatic memory formation. Thus, we examined whether this genetic variant would predict stress effects on learning and memory in a non-clinical sample. Two hundred and thirty-five individuals were exposed to the socially evaluated cold pressor test or a control condition immediately or 30 min prior to learning a list of words that varied in emotional valence and arousal level. Participants' memory for the words was tested immediately (recall) and 24 h after learning (recall and recognition), and saliva samples were collected to genotype participants for the ADRA2B deletion variant. Results showed that stress administered immediately before learning selectively enhanced long-term recall in deletion carriers. Stress administered 30 min before learning impaired recognition memory in male deletion carriers, while enhancing recognition memory in female deletion carriers. These findings provide additional evidence to support the idea that ADRA2B deletion variant carriers retain a sensitized stress response system, which results in amplified effects of stress on learning and memory. The accumulating evidence regarding this genetic variant implicates it as a susceptibility factor for traumatic memory formation and PTSD-related phenotypes.

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