5-HTTLPR and early childhood adversities moderate cognitive and emotional processing in adolescence

Matthew Owens, Ian M. Goodyer, Paul Wilkinson, Anupam Bhardwaj, Rosemary Abbott, Tim Croudace, Valerie Dunn, Peter B. Jones, Nicholas D. Walsh, Maria Ban, Barbara J. Sahakian

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39 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Polymorphisms in the promoter region of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) and exposure to early childhood adversities (CA) are independently associated with individual differences in cognitive and emotional processing. Whether these two factors interact to influence cognitive and emotional processing is not known.

METHODOLOGY AND PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We used a sample of 238 adolescents from a community study characterised by the presence of the short allele of 5-HTTLPR (LL, LS, SS) and the presence or absence of exposure to CA before 6 years of age. We measured cognitive and emotional processing using a set of neuropsychological tasks selected predominantly from the CANTAB® battery. We found that adolescents homozygous for the short allele (SS) of 5-HTTLPR and exposed to CA were worse at classifying negative and neutral stimuli and made more errors in response to ambiguous negative feedback. In addition, cognitive and emotional processing deficits were associated with diagnoses of anxiety and/or depressions.

CONCLUSION AND SIGNIFICANCE: Cognitive and emotional processing deficits may act as a transdiagnostic intermediate marker for anxiety and depressive disorders in genetically susceptible individuals exposed to CA.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere48482
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2012


  • Adolescent
  • Alleles
  • Anxiety
  • Cognition
  • Depression
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins

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