Serotonin transporter genotype modulates cognitive reappraisal of negative emotions: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study

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Abstract

A functional polymorphism within the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) has been reported to modulate emotionality and risk for affective disorders. The short (S) allele has less functional efficacy than the long (L) allele and has been associated with enhanced emotional reactivity. One possible contributing factor to the high emotionality in S carriers may be inefficient use of cognitive strategies such as reappraisal to regulate emotional responses. The aim of the present study was to test whether the 5-HTTLPR genotype modulates the neural correlates of emotion regulation. To determine neural differences between S and L allele carriers during reappraisal of negative emotions, 15 homozygous S (S′/S′) and 15 homozygous L (L′/L′) carriers underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), while performing an instructed emotion regulation task including downregulation, upregulation and passive viewing of negative emotional pictures. Compared to L′/L′ allele carriers, subjects who carry the S′/S′ allele responded with lower posterior insula and prefrontal brain activation during passive perception of negative emotional information but showed greater prefrontal activation and anterior insula activation during down- and upregulation of negative emotional responses. The current results support and extend previous findings of enhanced emotionality in S carriers by providing additional evidence of 5-HTTLPR modulation of volitional emotion regulation.

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