Neurogenetic variations in norepinephrine availability enhance perceptual vividness

J Neurosci. 2015 Apr 22;35(16):6506-16. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4489-14.2015.


Emotionally salient aspects of the world are experienced with greater perceptual vividness than mundane ones; however, such emotionally enhanced vividness (EEV) may be experienced to different degrees for different people. We examined whether BOLD activity associated with a deletion variant of the ADRA2b gene coding for the α2b adrenoceptor modulates EEV in humans. Relative to noncarriers, ADRA2b deletion carriers showed higher levels of perceptual vividness, with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) showing greater modulation by EEV. Deletion carriers were also more sensitive to the featural salience of the images, suggesting a more pervasive role of norepinephrine in perceptual encoding. Path analysis revealed that, whereas a simple model by which the amygdala modulated the lateral occipital complex best characterized EEV-related activity in noncarriers, contributions of an additional VMPFC pathway best characterized deletion carriers. Thus, common norepinephrine-related neurogenetic differences enhance the subjective vividness of perceptual experience and its emotional enhancement.

Keywords: ADRA2b; attention; emotion; emotionally enhanced vividness; fMRI; neurogenetics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Gene Deletion
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Norepinephrine / genetics
  • Norepinephrine / physiology*
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2 / genetics*
  • Young Adult


  • ADRA2B protein, human
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2
  • Norepinephrine