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Keywords:

  • COMT (val158)met polymorphism;
  • dopamine;
  • face perception;
  • face recognition;
  • fluid cognitive ability;
  • gene–behavior interaction;
  • genetics;
  • OXTR (rs2268498) polymorphism;
  • oxytocin;
  • social abilities

The oxytocin and the dopaminergic systems have turned out to be highly relevant for social abilities and cognition. Therefore, we examined the association between two functional gene polymorphisms and face cognition (FC) in a multivariate study (N = 250) by applying structural equation modeling. The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) val158met polymorphism influences the enzyme activity of COMT, which affects the prefrontal dopamine concentration. The rs226849 is a single-nucleotide polymorphism located in the promoter region of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene, modulating the mRNA expression. By modeling a general fluid ability factor (defined by working memory and reasoning) and nested FC factors, we tested genetic contributions to FC, after controlling for variance in FC that was also associated with fluid abilities. In line with several previous studies, we found a significant association between the COMT genotype and fluid abilities (Gf) but not with FC. The association between the oxytocin polymorphism and Gf was opposite in direction for men and women. Women with the C+ genotype performed better on Gf tasks than those with the C genotype. Conversely, men with the C genotype performed better than those with the C+ genotype. There was no significant association between OXTR and the nested FC factor. Therefore, the relationship between the oxytocin polymorphism and FC can be fully accounted for by Gf. The sex specificity of this relationship is a novel finding and warrants a mechanistic explanation.