5-HTTLPR and anxiety modulate brain-heart covariation


  • This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (grant number DFG WA 2593/2-1). We would like to thank Dipl. Psych. I. Mayer who performed parts of the data analysis as part of her Diploma thesis. Parts of this work have been presented in preliminary form at the 51st Annual Meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research in Boston, Massachusetts, in 2011.

Address correspondence to: Erik M. Mueller, Department of Psychology, Universität Giessen, Otto-Behaghel-Str. 10F, 35394 Giessen, Germany. E-mail: erik.mueller@psychol.uni-giessen.de


To date, little is known about genes affecting the interplay of brain and heart activity. Because serotonin (5-HT) is involved in corticovagal neurotransmission, we tested whether the 5-HT transporter polymorphism 5-HTTLPR affects brain-heart covariation. Further, associations with neuroticism/anxiety (NANX) were tested, as anxiety is related to 5-HT and neurogenic changes of heart period (HP). N = 168 participants performed a time-estimation task while EEG and HP were recorded. Brain-heart covariation was measured using time-lagged within-subject correlations of centromedial feedback-evoked single-trial EEG at 300 ms and subsequent changes of HP. EEG-HP correlations were higher in 5-HTTLPR long allele carriers. Moreover, after negative feedback, EEG-HP correlations and feedback-related negativity amplitudes independently correlated with NANX. The results indicate that individual differences in brain-heart covariation relate to 5-HT and NANX.