Dopamine transporter genotype predicts attentional asymmetry in healthy adults

Neuropsychologia. 2012 Oct;50(12):2823-2829. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.08.012. Epub 2012 Aug 23.


A number of recent studies suggest that DNA variation in the dopamine transporter gene (DAT1) influences spatial attention asymmetry in clinical populations such as ADHD, but confirmation in non-clinical samples is required. Since non-spatial factors such as attentional load have been shown to influence spatial biases in clinical conditions, here we sought to determine whether any association between DAT1 genotype and spatial bias might be moderated by non-spatial attentional load. Healthy adults were asked to react to sudden onset peripheral targets while demand on non-spatial attention was manipulated via a central task. Participants were genotyped for a DAT1 variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) polymorphism. The 10-repeat allele of this variant is a replicated susceptibility allele for ADHD and has been shown to associate with spatial bias. As expected, an overall leftward asymmetry/pseudoneglect was observed when the data were averaged across the entire sample. When data were stratified by DAT1 genotype, individuals lacking homozygosity for the 10-repeat DAT1 allele (non-10/10) showed a pronounced leftward bias that was significantly different from zero. In line with past reports from children with ADHD, this leftward bias was attenuated in individuals who were homozygous for the DAT1 10-repeat allele (10/10), suggestive of relatively weaker right hemisphere dominance for spatial attention. This effect of DAT1 genotype on spatial bias was not modulated by non-spatial attention load. These data confirm in healthy adult participants both the existence and the direction of the relationship previously reported between DAT1 genotype and spatial bias in children with ADHD. These data add to a growing body of evidence showing that spatial attentional asymmetry is a stable quantitative trait, with individual differences in this trait significantly predicted by common DNA variation in the DAT1 gene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genotype
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minisatellite Repeats
  • Perceptual Disorders / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Genetic


  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • SLC6A3 protein, human
  • Dopamine