Variations in the Catechol O-methyltransferase Polymorphism and Prefrontally Guided Behaviors in Adolescents

Dustin Wahlstrom, Tonya White, Catalina J. Hooper, Suzanne Vrshek-Schallhorn, William S. Oetting, Marcia J. Brott, Monica Luciana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Background: The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene codes for an enzyme that degrades prefrontal cortex (PFC) synaptic dopamine. Of two identified alleles (Met and Val), the Met allele results in COMT activity that is up to 4 times less pronounced than that conferred by the Val allele, resulting in greater PFC dopamine concentrations. Met-Met homozygotes perform better than individuals who possess the Val allele on PFC-mediated cognitive tasks. These genotypic variations and their associations with executive functions have been described in adults and prepubescent children, but there is a paucity of research assessing these relations in adolescent samples. Methods: In this study, 70 children aged 9-17 were genotyped for COMT and completed measures of working memory, attention, fine motor coordination, and motor speed. Results: COMT genotype modulated all but the motor speed measures. The Val-Met genotype was optimal for performance in this adolescent sample. Conclusions: Results are discussed within the context of developmental changes in the dopaminergic system during adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)626-632
Number of pages7
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by Grant No. M01-RR00400 from the National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health, and the Kempf Fund Award awarded to the second author by the American Psychiatric Association.


  • Adolescence
  • cognition
  • dopamine
  • genetics
  • neuropsychology
  • prefrontal cortex


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