A functional variant of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) has been associated with increased risk for major depression in the context of stress. In attempting to understand the mechanisms underlying this relation, we tested the hypothesis that 5-HTTLPR genotype affects the speed with which amygdala is recruited during emotional processing in young girls with no history of psychiatric disorder. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare the rise time to peak amygdala activation in 5-HTTLPR short-allele carriers and long-allele homozygotes during enhancement of sad mood. Relative to long-allele homozygotes, participants with at least one copy of the 5-HTTLPR short allele showed both stronger and earlier activation in left amygdala as they increased a sad mood state. Individuals carrying the short allele appear to exhibit a neural 'readiness' to engage and enhance negative affect. Future research should examine how exposure to negative life events and more chronic sadness modify the time course of amygdala activity during the experience of negative emotion.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology