GABRB1 Single Nucleotide Polymorphism Associated with Altered Brain Responses (but not Performance) during Measures of Impulsivity and Reward Sensitivity in Human Adolescents

Front Behav Neurosci. 2017 Feb 15;11:24. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2017.00024. eCollection 2017.


Variations in genes encoding several GABAA receptors have been associated with human drug and alcohol abuse. Among these, a number of human studies have suggested an association between GABRB1, the gene encoding GABAA receptor β1 subunits, with Alcohol dependence (AD), both on its own and comorbid with other substance dependence and psychiatric illnesses. In the present study, we hypothesized that the GABRB1 genetically-associated increased risk for developing alcoholism may be associated with impaired behavioral control and altered sensitivity to reward, as a consequence of altered brain function. Exploiting the IMAGEN database (Schumann et al., 2010), we explored in a human adolescent population whether possession of the minor (T) variant of the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs2044081 is associated with performance of tasks measuring aspects of impulsivity, and reward sensitivity that are implicated in drug and alcohol abuse. Allelic variation did not associate with altered performance in either a stop-signal task (SST), measuring one aspect of impulsivity, or a monetary incentive delay (MID) task assessing reward anticipation. However, increased functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) response in the right hemisphere inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), left hemisphere caudate/insula and left hemisphere inferior temporal gyrus (ITG) during MID performance was higher in the minor (T) allelic group. In contrast, during SST performance, the BOLD response found in the right hemisphere supramarginal gyrus, right hemisphere lingual and left hemisphere inferior parietal gyrus indicated reduced responses in the minor genotype. We suggest that β1-containing GABAA receptors may play a role in excitability of brain regions important in controlling reward-related behavior, which may contribute to susceptibility to addictive behavior.

Keywords: GABAA receptor; alcohol abuse; fMRI; inferior frontal gyrus; insula; monetary incentive delay; stop signal; supramarginal gyrus.