BACKGROUND: Dopamine plays an important role in orienting and the regulation of selective attention to relevant stimulus characteristics. Thus, we examined the influences of functional variants related to dopamine inactivation in the dopamine transporter (DAT1) and catechol-O-methyltransferase genes (COMT) on the time-course of visual processing in a contingent negative variation (CNV) task.
METHODS: 64-channel EEG recordings were obtained from 195 healthy adolescents of a community-based sample during a continuous performance task (A-X version). Early and late CNV as well as preceding visual evoked potential components were assessed.
RESULTS: Significant additive main effects of DAT1 and COMT on the occipito-temporal early CNV were observed. In addition, there was a trend towards an interaction between the two polymorphisms. Source analysis showed early CNV generators in the ventral visual stream and in frontal regions. There was a strong negative correlation between occipito-temporal visual post-processing and the frontal early CNV component. The early CNV time interval 500-1000 ms after the visual cue was specifically affected while the preceding visual perception stages were not influenced.
CONCLUSIONS: Late visual potentials allow the genomic imaging of dopamine inactivation effects on visual post-processing. The same specific time-interval has been found to be affected by DAT1 and COMT during motor post-processing but not motor preparation. We propose the hypothesis that similar dopaminergic mechanisms modulate working memory encoding in both the visual and motor and perhaps other systems.