Morphological correlates of MAO A VNTR polymorphism: new evidence from cortical thickness measurement

Behav Brain Res. 2010 Jul 29;211(1):118-24. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2010.03.021. Epub 2010 Mar 18.


A functional variant in the mono-amine oxidase A (MAO A) gene has been shown to impact neural function related to cognitive and affective processing and increase risk for conduct disorders. However, whether MAO A could be a candidate gene for structural variation in the human brain remains to be clarified. This study is the first to investigate the effect of this genotype on brain morphology by measuring cortical thickness. We genotyped 59 healthy male subjects (36 carrying the MAO A High-activity allele and 23 the MAO A Low-activity allele) who underwent structural MRI at 3T. Models of the grey-white and pial surfaces were generated for each individual's cortices, and the distance between these two surfaces was used to compute cortical thickness within a priori regions of interest of the orbitofrontal and cingulate cortices. Surface-based analysis of the cortical mantle showed that the MAO A genotype was associated with structural differences in the orbitofrontal cortex bilaterally, where the MAO A High-activity group showed the highest cortical thickness value and the MAO A Low-activity group the lowest. Otherwise, no significant difference was detected within the cingulate cortex. Thus, we confirm the hypothesis that the MAO A genotype has a specific impact on human brain morphology. In particular, thickness measurement of the orbitofrontal cortex provides new evidence about the biological impact of the MAO A genotype on neural systems relevant to the pathophysiology of behavioural disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / enzymology
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minisatellite Repeats / genetics
  • Monoamine Oxidase / genetics*
  • Organ Size / genetics
  • Reference Values


  • Isoenzymes
  • Monoamine Oxidase