The genetic and neural basis of working memory (WM) has been extensively studied. Many dopamine (DA) related genes, including the NTSR1 gene (a DA modulator gene), have been reported to be associated with WM performance. The NTSR1 protein is predominantly expressed in the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus, the latter of which is closely involved in WM processing based on both lesion and fMRI studies. Thus far, however, no study has examined the joint effects of NTSR1 gene polymorphism and hippocampal morphology on WM performance.
Participants of the current study were 330 healthy Chinese college students. WM performance was measured with a 2-back WM paradigm. Structural MRI data were acquired and then analyzed using an automated procedure with atlas-based FreeSurfer segmentation software (v 4.5.0) package. Linear regression analyses were conducted with a NTSR1 C/T polymorphism which was previously reported to be associated with WM (rs4334545), hippocampal volume, and their interaction as predictors of WM performance, with gender and intracranial volume (ICV) as covariates. Results showed a significant interaction between NTSR1 genotype and hippocampal volume (p < .05 for both the left and right hippocampi). Further analysis showed that the correlation between hippocampal volume and WM scores was significant for carriers of the NTSR1 T-allele (p < .05 for both hippocampi), but not for CC homozygotes. These results indicate that the association between hippocampal structure and WM performance was modulated by variation in the NTSR1 gene, and suggest that further studies of brain–behavior associations should take genetic background information into account.Highlights
▸ The relation between working memory (WM) and hippocampus has been inconsistent. ▸ Association between hippocampal volume and WM was modulated by the NTSR1 gene. ▸ A possible reason for above inconsistencies should be various genetic backgrounds. ▸ Studies of brain–behavior associations should take genetic information into account.