Background: This study explored the association between three measures of working memory ability and genetic variation in a range of catecholamine genes in a sample of children with ADHD.Methods: One hundred and eighteen children with ADHD performed three working memory measures taken from the CANTAB battery (Spatial Span, Delayed-match-to-sample, and Spatial Working Memory). Associations between performance on working memory measures and allelic variation in catecholamine genes (including those for the noradrenaline transporter [NET1], the dopamine D4 and D2 receptor genes [DRD4; DRD2], the gene encoding dopamine beta hydroxylase [DBH] and catechol-O-methyl transferase [COMT]) were investigated using regression models that controlled for age, IQ, gender and medication status on the day of test.Results: Significant associations were found between performance on the delayed-match-to-sample task and COMT genotype. More specifically, val/val homozygotes produced significantly more errors than did children who carried a least one met allele. There were no further associations between allelic variants and performance across the other working memory tasks.Conclusions: The working memory measures employed in the present study differed in the degree to which accurate task performance depended upon either the dynamic updating and/or manipulation of items in working memory, as in the spatial span and spatial working memory tasks, or upon the stable maintenance of representations, as in the delay-match-to-sample task. The results are interpreted as evidence of a relationship between tonic dopamine levels associated with the met COMT allele and the maintenance of stable working memory representations required to perform the delayed-match-to-sample-task. © 2012 Matthews et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Matthews, N., Vance, A., Cummins, T. DR., Wagner, J., Connolly, A., Yamada, J., Lockhart, P. J., Panwar, A., Wallace, R., & Bellgrove, M. (2012). The COMT Val158 allele is associated with impaired delayed-match-to-sample performance in ADHD. Behavioral and Brain Functions, 8, 25-33. https://doi.org/10.1186/1744-9081-8-25