Overnight retention of emotional memories is influenced by BDNF Val66Met but not 5-HTTLPR

Marcus O. Harrington, Kristel Klaus, Mariliis Vaht, Jaanus Harro, Kyla Pennington, Simon J. Durrant

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Emotional memory may be modulated by BDNF Val66Met and 5-HTTLPR polymorphisms. However, the influence of these genetic variants on the overnight retention of emotional memories has not been investigated in humans. Thirty-six healthy female students were selected to participate in this study based on 5-HTTLPR genotype status (L’/L’, L’/S’, S’/S’). Participants were also genotyped for BDNF Val66Met (Val/Val, Met carriers). We measured recognition performance for positive, neutral and negative images before and after overnight sleep. We found a significant interaction between BDNF Val66Met genotype group and image valence on post-sleep recognition performance. This interaction was driven by greater memory for negative and positive images, relative to neutral images, in Met carriers. We also found that longer Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep duration predicted greater post-sleep recognition performance for negative images in Met carriers, but not in Val homozygotes. We observed no influence of 5-HTTLPR polymorphisms on post- sleep recognition performance for positive, neutral or negative images. Our findings support a modulatory role for BDNF Val66Met in overnight emotional memory retention in females. We discuss the implications of this finding for understanding the influence of BDNF Val66Met on depression vulnerability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-27
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • Affective memory
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • Depression
  • Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep
  • Serotonin transporter

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