Genetic modulation of the response bias towards facial displays of anger and happiness

B. Gohier*, C. Senior, J. Radua, W. El-Hage, A. Reichenberg, P. Proitsi, M.L. Phillips, S.A. Surguladze

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Investigating genetic modulation of emotion processing may contribute to the understanding of heritable mechanisms of emotional disorders. The aim of the present study was to test the effects of catechol- O-methyltransferase (COMT) val158met and serotonin-transporter-linked promoter region (5-HTTLPR) polymorphisms on facial emotion processing in healthy individuals. Methods: Two hundred and seventy five (167 female) participants were asked to complete a computerized facial affect recognition task, which involved four experimental conditions, each containing one type of emotional face (fearful, angry, sad or happy) intermixed with neutral faces. Participants were asked to indicate whether the face displayed an emotion or was neutral. The COMT-val158met and 5-HTTLPR polymorphisms were genotyped. Results: Met homozygotes (COMT) showed a stronger bias to perceive neutral faces as expressions of anger, compared with val homozygotes. However, the S-homozygotes (5-HTTLPR) showed a reduced bias to perceive neutral faces as expressions of happiness, compared to L-homozygotes. No interaction between 5-HTTLPR and COMT was found. Conclusions: These results add to the knowledge of individual differences in social cognition that are modulated via serotonergic and dopaminergic systems. This potentially could contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms of susceptibility to emotional disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-202
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Psychiatry
Issue number4
Early online date13 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


  • 5-HTTLPR
  • COMT
  • emotional disorders
  • facial emotion recognition
  • genes


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