Neural mechanisms of AVPR1A RS3-RS1 haplotypes that impact verbal learning and memory

Neuroimage. 2020 Nov 15:222:117283. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117283. Epub 2020 Aug 20.


Converging evidence from both human and animal studies has highlighted the pervasive role of the neuropeptide arginine vasopressin (AVP), which is mediated by arginine vasopressin receptor 1A (AVPR1A), in both social and nonsocial learning and memory. However, the effect of genetic variants in AVPR1A on verbal learning and memory is unknown. The hippocampus is a heterogeneous structure that consists of several anatomically and functionally distinct subfields, and it is the principal target structure for the memory-enhancing effect of AVP. We tested the hypothesis that genetic variants in the RS3 and RS1 repeat polymorphisms may influence verbal learning and memory performance evaluated by the California Verbal Learning Test-II (CVLT-II) by modulating the gray matter volume (GMV) and resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) of whole hippocampus and its subfields in a large cohort of young healthy subjects (n = 1001). Using a short/long classification scheme for the repeat length of RS3 and RS1, we found that the individuals carrying more short alleles of RS3-RS1 haplotypes had poorer learning and memory performance compared to that of those carrying more long alleles. We also revealed that individuals carrying more short alleles exhibited a significantly smaller GMV in the left cornu ammonis (CA)2/3 and weaker rsFC of the left CA2/3-bilateral thalamic (primarily in medial prefrontal subfields) compared to those carrying more long alleles. Furthermore, multiple mediation analysis confirmed that these two hippocampal imaging measures jointly and fully mediated the relationship between the genetic variants in AVPR1A RS3-RS1 haplotypes and the individual differences in verbal learning and memory performance. Our results suggest that genetic variants in AVPR1A RS3-RS1 haplotypes may affect verbal learning and memory performance in part by modulating the left hippocampal CA2/3 structure and its rsFC with the thalamus.

Keywords: California Verbal Learning Test; FreeSurfer; Functional connectivity; Gray matter volume; Hippocampal subfields; Verbal memory.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Receptors, Vasopressin / genetics*
  • Verbal Learning / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • AVPR1A protein, human
  • Receptors, Vasopressin