DAT genotype modulates striatal processing and long-term memory for items associated with reward and punishment

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Abstract

Previous studies have shown that appetitive motivation enhances episodic memory formation via a network including the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA), striatum and hippocampus. This functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study now contrasted the impact of aversive and appetitive motivation on episodic long-term memory. Cue pictures predicted monetary reward or punishment in alternating experimental blocks. One day later, episodic memory for the cue pictures was tested. We also investigated how the neural processing of appetitive and aversive motivation and episodic memory were modulated by dopaminergic mechanisms. To that end, participants were selected on the basis of their genotype for a variable number of tandem repeat polymorphism of the dopamine transporter (DAT) gene. The resulting groups were carefully matched for the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism of the serotonin transporter gene. Recognition memory for cues from both motivational categories was enhanced in participants homozygous for the 10-repeat allele of the DAT, the functional effects of which are not known yet, but not in heterozygous subjects. In comparison with heterozygous participants, 10-repeat homozygous participants also showed increased striatal activity for anticipation of motivational outcomes compared to neutral outcomes. In a subsequent memory analysis, encoding activity in striatum and hippocampus was found to be higher for later recognized items in 10-repeat homozygotes compared to 9/10-repeat heterozygotes. These findings suggest that processing of appetitive and aversive motivation in the human striatum involve the dopaminergic system and that dopamine plays a role in memory for both types of motivational information. In accordance with animal studies, these data support the idea that encoding of motivational events depends on dopaminergic processes in the hippocampus.

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