Humans are faced with the dilemma to maintain a stable cognitive set on the one hand and to be able to redirect and switch attention to novel stimuli of potential importance. The dopaminergic system has been implicated in the balance between these two antagonistic constraints and in particular in novelty processing. Here we studied the impact of two polymorphisms affecting dopaminergic functioning (COMT Val108/158Met and DRD4 SNP -521) on neurophysiological correlates of novelty processing. Recording event-related potentials (ERPs) and oscillatory activity in a modified oddball task that featured infrequent but task-irrelevant novel sounds in addition to frequent standard and rare target tones, we examined participants homozygous for the Met or Val variant of COMT as well as homozygous for the C or T variant of DRD4. We found effects mainly on the P3a component to novel stimuli. A greater P3a amplitude was found for the COMT-ValVal group relative to MetMet. There was a tendency for DRD4-TT participants to show greater P3a amplitude and shorter P3a latency. Finally, DRD4-TT and COMT-ValVal participants showed the greatest increase of theta-power to novel stimuli. By contrast, the P3b component to target stimuli showed little influence of the studied polymorphism. Individual differences in dopaminergic genes explain part of the interindividual variance in the neural correlates of novelty but not target processing.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)