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Effects of Serotonin Transporter Gene Variation on Impulsivity Mediated by Default Mode Network: A Family Study of Depression

Cha, Jiook; Guffanti, Guia; Gingrich, Jay A.; Talati, Ardesheer; Wickramaratne, Priya J.; Weissman, Myrna M.; Posner, Jonathan Eric

Serotonergic neurotransmission, potentially through effects on the brain’s default mode network (DMN), may regulate aspects of attention including impulse control. Indeed, genetic variants of the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) have been implicated in impulsivity and related psychopathology. Yet it remains unclear the mechanism by which the 5-HTT genetic variants contribute to individual variability in impulse control. Here, we tested whether DMN connectivity mediates an association between the 5-HTT genetic variants and impulsivity. Participants (N = 92) were from a family cohort study of depression in which we have previously shown a broad distribution of 5-HTT variants. We genotyped for 5-HTTLPR and rs25531 (stratified by transcriptional efficiency: 8 low/low, 53 low/high, and 31 high/high), estimated DMN structural connectivity using diffusion probabilistic tractography, and assessed behavioral measures of impulsivity (from 12 low/low, 48 low/high, and 31 high/high) using the Continuous Performance Task. We found that low transcriptional efficiency genotypes were associated with decreased connection strength between the posterior DMN and the superior frontal gyrus (SFG). Path modeling demonstrated that decreased DMN–SFG connectivity mediated the association between low-efficiency genotypes and increased impulsivity. Taken together, this study suggests a gene-brain-behavior pathway that perhaps underlies the role of the serotonergic neuromodulation in impulse control.


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Cerebral Cortex

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April 18, 2019