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Durham University



Publication details for Dr Niklas Ihssen

Lancaster, T. M., Ihssen, N., Brindley, L. M. & Linden, D. E. J. (2017). Further support for association between GWAS variant for positive emotion and reward systems. Translational Psychiatry 7(1): e1018.

Author(s) from Durham


A recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified a significant single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) for trait-positive emotion at rs322931 on chromosome 1, which was also associated with brain activation in the reward system of healthy individuals when observing positive stimuli in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study. In the current study, we aimed to further validate the role of variation at rs322931 in reward processing. Using a similar fMRI approach, we use two paradigms that elicit a strong ventral striatum (VS) blood oxygen-level dependency (BOLD) response in a sample of young, healthy individuals (N=82). In the first study we use a similar picture-viewing task to the discovery sample (positive>neutral stimuli) to replicate an effect of the variant on emotion processing. In the second study we use a probabilistic reversal learning procedure to identify reward processing during decision-making under uncertainly (reward>punishment). In a region of interest (ROI) analysis of the bilateral VS, we show that the rs322931 genotype was associated with BOLD in the left VS during the positive>neutral contrast (PROI-CORRECTED=0.045) and during the reward>punishment contrast (PROI-CORRECTED=0.018), although the effect of passive picture viewing was in the opposite direction from that reported in the discovery sample. These findings suggest that the recently identified GWAS hit may influence positive emotion via individual differences in activity in the key hubs of the brain’s reward system. Furthermore, these effects may not be limited to the passive viewing of positive emotional scenes, but may also be observed during dynamic decision-making. This study suggests that future studies of this GWAS locus may yield further insight into the biological mechanisms of psychopathologies characterised by deficits in reward processing and positive emotion.

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