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The role of the dopamine transporter DAT1 genotype on the neural correlates of cognitive flexibility

Authors

  • M. Garcia-Garcia,

    1. Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior (IR3C), University of Barcelona, Spain
    2. Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology, University of Barcelona, P. Vall d’Hebron 171, 08035 Barcelona, Spain
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  • F. Barceló,

    1. Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology, University of Barcelona, P. Vall d’Hebron 171, 08035 Barcelona, Spain
    2. Clinical Neuropsychology Research Group, University of Balearic Islands, Mallorca, Spain
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  • I. C. Clemente,

    1. Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior (IR3C), University of Barcelona, Spain
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  • C. Escera

    1. Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior (IR3C), University of Barcelona, Spain
    2. Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology, University of Barcelona, P. Vall d’Hebron 171, 08035 Barcelona, Spain
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Dr C. Escera, 2Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, Department of Psychiatry, as above.
E-mail: cescera@ub.edu

Abstract

Cognitive flexibility, the ability to adapt goal-oriented behaviour in response to changing environmental demands, varies widely amongst individuals, yet its underlying neural mechanisms are not fully understood. Neuropharmacological and human clinical studies have suggested a critical role for striatal dopaminergic function mediated by the dopamine transporter (DAT). The present study aimed at revealing the role of the DAT in the individual brain response stereotypy underlying cognitive flexibility. A task-switching protocol was administered to a sample divided according to the presence or absence of the 9-repeat (9R) allele of the DAT1 polymorphism, while registering behavioural and electrophysiological novelty-P3 responses. The absence of the 9R (higher gene expression) is related to less striatal DA availability. Individuals lacking the 9R (9R−) showed specific response time (RT) increases for sensory change and task-set reconfiguration, as well as brain modulations not observed in participants with the 9R allele (9R+), suggesting that task performance of the former group depended on immediate local context. In contrast, individuals displaying high striatal DA showed larger RT costs than 9R− individuals to any sensory change, with no further increase for task-set reconfiguration, and a larger early positive brain response irrespective of the task condition, probably reflecting larger inhibition of any previous interference as well as stronger activation of the current task set. However, the polymorphic groups did not differ in their mean RTs in trials requiring task-set reconfiguration. This distinct stereotypy of cerebral responses reveals different patterns of cognitive control according to the DAT1 gene polymorphism.

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