The functional catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT Val108/158Met) polymorphism has been shown to have an impact on tasks of executive function, memory and attention and recently, tasks with an affective component. As oestrogen reduces COMT activity, we focused on the interaction between gender and COMT genotype on brain activations during an affective processing task. We used functional MRI (fMRI) to record brain activations from 74 healthy subjects who engaged in a facial affect recognition task; subjects viewed and identified fearful compared to neutral faces. There was no main effect of the COMT polymorphism, gender or genotypegender interaction on task performance. We found a significant effect of gender on brain activations in the left amygdala and right temporal pole, where females demonstrated increased activations over males. Within these regions, Val/Val carriers showed greater signal magnitude compared to Met/Met carriers, particularly in females. The COMT Val108/158Met polymorphism impacts on gender-related patterns of activation in limbic and paralimbic regions but the functional significance of any oestrogen-related COMT inhibition appears modest.
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