BDNF val66met is a strong predictor of decision making and attention performance on the CONVIRT virtual reality cognitive battery.
journal contributionposted on 18.01.2021, 00:06 by Michelle Corrone, Aleshia Nanev, Isabella Amato, Rowena Bicknell, Daniel Wundersitz, Maarten van den Buuse, Bradley Wright
The val66met polymorphism of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene has been associated with changes in components of executive functioning such as decision making; however, this relationship remains unclear. Val66met-related changes in attention and visual processing speed may explain potential changes in decision making. Furthermore, chronic stress disrupts executive functions and alters autonomic activity. Because the relationship between val66met and cognition has not been investigated in the context of chronic stress or stress-related autonomic changes, in this study 55 healthy university students completed self-report measures of chronic stress and mental health. Participants then completed a virtual reality cognitive test battery (CONVIRT) measuring decision making, attention, and visual processing reaction times. To measure autonomic activity, saliva alpha amylase and heart rate variability (HRV) were assessed at baseline and after CONVIRT testing. Saliva samples were used to identify val66met genotype. Regression analyses demonstrated that val66met was the strongest predictor of decision making and attention, but not visual processing, where valine/methionine (Val/met) participants had faster reaction times than Val/val participants. Val/met participants also had higher perceived chronic stress and heightened increases in sympathetic activity, but not parasympathetic activity. Neither stress nor autonomic activity moderated the effect of val66met on decision making or attention. This study is the first to investigate the role of val66met in decision making, attention, and visual processing while taking into account chronic stress and autonomic activity. This multifactorial approach revealed that carriers of the Val/met genotype may have better decision making and attention than Val/val carriers.