, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 298-313

Neuropsychopharmacology and Neurogenetic Aspects of Executive Functioning: Should Reward Gene Polymorphisms Constitute a Diagnostic Tool to Identify Individuals at Risk for Impaired Judgment?

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Abstract

Executive functions are processes that act in harmony to control behaviors necessary for maintaining focus and achieving outcomes. Executive dysfunction in neuropsychiatric disorders is attributed to structural or functional pathology of brain networks involving prefrontal cortex (PFC) and its connections with other brain regions. The PFC receives innervations from different neurons associated with a number of neurotransmitters, especially dopamine (DA). Here we review findings on the contribution of PFC DA to higher-order cognitive and emotional behaviors. We suggest that examination of multifactorial interactions of an individual’s genetic history, along with environmental risk factors, can assist in the characterization of executive functioning for that individual. Based upon the results of genetic studies, we also propose genetic mapping as a probable diagnostic tool serving as a therapeutic adjunct for augmenting executive functioning capabilities. We conclude that preservation of the neurological underpinnings of executive functions requires the integrity of complex neural systems including the influence of specific genes and associated polymorphisms to provide adequate neurotransmission.