Objective: The serotonin transporter polymorphism short (s) allele is associated with heightened emotional reactivity and reduced emotion regulation, which increases vulnerability to depression and anxiety disorders. We investigated behavioral and neural markers of emotion regulation in community-dwelling older adults, contrasting s allele carriers and long allele homozygotes.
Methods: Participants (N = 26) completed a face-word emotion conflict task during functional magnetic resonance imaging, in which facilitated regulation of emotion conflict was observed on face-word incongruent trials following another incongruent trial (i.e., emotional conflict adaptation).
Results: There were no differences between genetic groups in behavioral task performance or neural activation in postincongruent versus postcongruent trials. By contrast, connectivity between dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and pregenual ACC, regions previously implicated in emotion conflict regulation, was impaired in s carriers for emotional conflict adaptation.
Conclusion: This is the first demonstration of an association between serotonin transporter polymorphism and functional connectivity in older adults. Poor dorsal ACC-pregenual ACC connectivity in s carriers may be one route by which these individuals experience greater difficulty in implementing effective emotional regulation, which may contribute to their vulnerability for affective disorders.
Keywords: 5-HTTLPR; aging; emotion regulation; neural connectivity.
Copyright © 2014 American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry. All rights reserved.