Association of Early Stress and BDNF Genotype With Response Inhibition During Emotional Distraction in Adolescence

Julia E. Cohen-Gilbert, Elena R. Stein, Megan R. Gunnar, Kathleen M. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study investigated whether brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) genotype moderated inhibitory control during an emotionally valenced task in a sample of internationally adopted adolescents (N = 109, ages 12-13 years) who spent their early years in institutional care. Participants were genotyped for the Val66Met polymorphism of the BDNF gene. Inhibitory control in different emotional contexts was assessed via a Go-NoGo task where letters appeared at the center of positive, negative, neutral, or scrambled images. Carriers of one or more methionine (Met) alleles demonstrated a significant association between poorer performance and increased adversity, indexed by age at adoption, while valine/valine (Val/Val) carriers did not. Thus, Val/Val genotype was associated with resilience to increased impulsivity with more prolonged deprivation. These results do not converge with research suggesting differential susceptibility effects for this polymorphism, but more closely reflect a diathesis-stress model for the impact of BDNF genotype on a behavioral measure of impulsivity during emotional distraction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1265-1285
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Early Adolescence
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018



  • cognitive development
  • emotion regulation
  • genetics
  • stress

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