Platelet MAO activity and the 5-HTT gene promoter polymorphism are associated with impulsivity and cognitive style in visual information processing

Abstract

Rationale

Low capacity of the central serotonergic system has been associated with impulsive behaviour. Both low platelet monoamine oxidase (MAO) activity and the short (S) allele of the serotonin transporter gene promoter region polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) are proposed to be markers of less efficient serotonergic functioning.

Objectives

The effect of the two markers for serotonin system efficiency on performance in a visual comparison task (VCT) and self-reported impulsiveness (Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, BIS-11) were investigated in healthy adolescents participating in the Estonian Children Personality Behaviour and Health Study. Possible confounding effect of general cognitive abilities on the performance in VCT was controlled for.

Results

Low platelet MAO activity and carrying of the S allele of 5-HTTLPR were both associated with higher error-rate and more impulsive performance in VCT. Platelet MAO activity and 5-HTTLPR S allele had a significant interactive effect on self-reported impulsivity (BIS-11). The effect of platelet MAO activity on both self-reported and performance impulsivity was significant only in the S allele carriers. The effect of 5-HTTLPR S allele on impulsive performance remained significant after controlling for general cognitive abilities.

Conclusions

The two markers of lower serotonergic capacity, 5-HTTLPR S allele and low platelet MAO activity, have a similar and partly synergistic influence on self-reported as well as performance measures of impulsivity.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by grants from the Estonian Ministry of Education and Science (No 0182643 and 0942706) and the Estonian Science Foundation (No 6932 and 6788), the Swedish Science Foundation (VR) and the AFA insurance company. The skilful technical assistance by Ms Erika Comasco is gratefully acknowledged. We are grateful to the participants of the ECPBHS and to the whole ECPBHS Study Team.

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Correspondence to Jaanus Harro.

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Paaver, M., Nordquist, N., Parik, J. et al. Platelet MAO activity and the 5-HTT gene promoter polymorphism are associated with impulsivity and cognitive style in visual information processing. Psychopharmacology 194, 545–554 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-007-0867-z

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Keywords

  • Impulsiveness
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Platelet monoamine oxidase
  • Serotonin
  • Speed and accuracy of information processing
  • 5-HT transporter gene