Linking unfounded beliefs to genetic dopamine availability

Front Hum Neurosci. 2015 Sep 30;9:521. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00521. eCollection 2015.


Unfounded convictions involving beliefs in the paranormal, grandiosity ideas or suspicious thoughts are endorsed at varying degrees among the general population. Here, we investigated the neurobiopsychological basis of the observed inter-individual variability in the propensity toward unfounded beliefs. One hundred two healthy individuals were genotyped for four polymorphisms in the COMT gene (rs6269, rs4633, rs4818, and rs4680, also known as val (158) met) that define common functional haplotypes with substantial impact on synaptic dopamine degradation, completed a questionnaire measuring unfounded beliefs, and took part in a behavioral experiment assessing perceptual inference. We found that greater dopamine availability was associated with a stronger propensity toward unfounded beliefs, and that this effect was statistically mediated by an enhanced influence of expectations on perceptual inference. Our results indicate that genetic differences in dopaminergic neurotransmission account for inter-individual differences in perceptual inference linked to the formation and maintenance of unfounded beliefs. Thus, dopamine might be critically involved in the processes underlying one's interpretation of the relationship between the self and the world.

Keywords: COMT; beliefs; dopamine; haplotype; visual perception.