Putative role of the COMT gene polymorphism (Val158Met) on verbal working memory functioning in a healthy population

M. Aguilera, N. Barrantes-Vidal, B. Arias, J. Moya, H. Villa, M. I. Ibáñez, M. A. Ruipérez, G. Ortet, L. Fañanás

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57 Citations (Scopus)


Working memory has been described as a neurocognitive probe of prefrontal brain functioning. Genetic variability related with catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene (Val158Met polymorphism) has received increasing attention as a possible modulator of working memory tasks in both schizophrenic patients and healthy subjects, although inconsistencies across studies have been found. This may be related to the existence of different working memory components, processes and modalities, which may have different sensitivities to subtle changes in dopamine levels and, therefore, the effect of the underlying COMT Val158Met genetic variability. To test this out a large sample of 521 healthy individuals from the general population were tested on the WCST and three working memory tasks that cover the assessment of verbal and spatial working modalities as well as different components and processes (Letter and Number Sequencing, CPT-IP, Backwards Visual Span). All individuals were genotyped for the rs4680 (Val158Met) polymorphism at the COMT gene. Met carriers showed near-significant better performance in the LNS compared with Val/Val individuals (F = 3.9, df = 1, P = 0.046). Moreover, the analysis for linear trend found that Met allele carriers showed significantly better performance than Val/Val individuals (B = 0.58 P = 0.031), although evidence for a linear trend was not found. None of the WCST indices differed among genotypes. Consistent with the hypothesis that Val158Met polymorphism (COMT gene) might account for individual differences on dopamine-dependent prefrontally related neurocognitive functions, the Letter-Number Sequencing task, which requires not only maintenance but also active manipulation of information seemed to be more sensitive to the disadvantageous Val/Val genotype in a large non-clinical sample. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)898-902
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics, Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2008


  • Catechol-O-methyltransferase
  • Executive function
  • Genetic variability
  • Working memory


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