Objective: Little is known about genetic contributions to individual differences in cognitive plasticity. Given that the neurotransmitter dopamine is critical for cognition and associated with cognitive plasticity, we investigated the effects of 3 polymorphisms of dopamine-related genes (LMX1A, DRD2, COMT) on baseline performance and plasticity of working memory (WM), perceptual speed, and reasoning.
Method: One hundred one younger and 103 older adults underwent approximately 100 days of cognitive training, and extensive testing before and after training. We analyzed the baseline and posttest data using latent change score models.
Results: For working memory, carriers of the val allele of the COMT polymorphism had lower baseline performance and larger performance gains from training than carriers of the met allele. There was no significant effect of the other genes or on other cognitive domains.
Conclusions: We relate this result to available evidence indicating that met carriers perform better than val carriers in WM tasks taxing maintenance, whereas val carriers perform better at updating tasks. We suggest that val carriers may show larger training gains because updating operations carry greater potential for plasticity than maintenance operations.
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