Polymorphisms of the HTR1a allele are linked to frontal brain electrical asymmetry

Andrew W. Bismark, Francisco A. Moreno, Jennifer L. Stewart, David N. Towers, James A. Coan, Jennifer Oas, Robert P. Erickson, John J.B. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Polymorphic variations in genes related to serotonin synthesis, transport, recognition, or degradation may convey subtle changes in serotonin system architecture that may place an individual at risk for psychopathology when faced with life stressors. The relationship between three key serotonin alleles and frontal brain electrical asymmetry, a putative endophenotype of depression, was examined. Risk alleles were hypothesized to predict relatively greater right frontal brain activity regardless of current clinical state. A sample of 313 college-age individuals, spanning a range of depressive severity from no symptomotology to clinically meaningful levels, participated. Resting encephalographic (EEG) activity was recorded from 64 scalp sites on four occasions separated by at least 24. h (two 8-min recording sessions occurring at each occasion). Alpha power asymmetry scores between homologous sites were calculated for each session and then averaged to form a trait metric of asymmetry for each pair. PCR based genotyping was conducted for the HTR1a, HTR2a, and HTTLPR genes. Variations in the HTR1a gene were related to trait EEG asymmetry, regardless of any history of depression. Compared to subjects with at least one non-risk allele, subjects with homozygous HTR1A risk alleles had significantly greater relative right frontal activity at sites F7/F8, F5/F6, and F1/F2. In conclusion, variation in HTR1a can influence trait level brain activity, which may ultimately be indicative of risk for psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-158
Number of pages6
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • Asymmetry
  • EEG
  • Endophenotype
  • Gene
  • HTR1a
  • Serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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