The Catechol-O-Methyl Transferase Val158Met Polymorphism and Experience of Reward in the Flow of Daily Life

Abstract
Genetic moderation of experience of reward in response to environmental stimuli is relevant for the study of many psychiatric disorders. Experience of reward, however, is difficult to capture, as it involves small fluctuations in affect in response to small events in the flow of daily life. This study examined a momentary assessment reward phenotype in relation to the catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) Val158Met polymorphism. A total of 351 participants from a twin study participated in an Experience Sampling Method procedure to collect daily life experiences concerning events, event appraisals, and affect. Reward experience was operationalized, as the effect of event appraisal on positive affect (PA). Associations between COMT Val 158Met genotype and event appraisal on the one hand and PA on the other were examined using multilevel random regression analysis. Ability to experience reward increased with the number of ‘Met’ alleles of the subject, and this differential effect of genotype was greater for events that were experienced as more pleasant. The effect size of genotypic moderation was quite large: subjects with the Val/Val genotype generated almost similar amounts of PA from a ‘very pleasant event’ as Met/Met subjects did from a ‘bit pleasant event’. Genetic variation with functional impact on cortical dopamine tone has a strong influence on reward experience in the flow of daily life. Genetic moderation of ecological measures of reward experience is hypothesized to be of major relevance to the development of various behavioral disorders, including depression and addiction. Neuropsychopharmacology (2008) 33, 3030–3036; doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1301520; published online 8 August 2007..
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