HTTLPR functional polymorphism in schizophrenia: Executive functions vs. sustained attention dissociation

Marta Bosia, Simona Anselmetti, Adele Pirovano, Elena Ermoli, Elena Marino, Placido Bramanti, Enrico Smeraldi, Roberto Cavallaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Recently attention has been addressed to the role of 5-HT in cognition and several experimental studies revealed that manipulations of the central 5-HT system can produce quite specific changes in cognitive functioning. These results may suggest new treatment strategies to improve cognition in psychiatric conditions characterized by neuropsychological impairments, such as schizophrenia. It is possible to investigate the involvement of 5-HT in cognition by examining the impact of genetic variation in key regulators of serotoninergic neurotransmission. Among these, the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) presents a functional polymorphism in the transcriptional control region of the gene (5-HTTLPR) affecting transcriptional efficiency. In the present study, we aimed to analyze the effect of 5-HTTLPR polymorphism on specific cognitive functions, known to be affected by 5-HT manipulation and altered in schizophrenia. Methods: 223 schizophrenia patients were tested with Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), for the evaluation of cognitive flexibility, Continuous Performance Test (CPT), for the evaluation of attention, and genotyped for the 5-HTTLPR. Results: We found a significant association between HTT polymorphism and executive functions and inversely with sustained attention. The presence of the high-activity long (L) allele in homozygosis was a predictor of better executive performances and poorer performances of attention. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that factors affecting serotonin availability may play a specific role in cognitive processes, probably through complex modulation of the different performance components.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-85
Number of pages5
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 20 2010


  • Executive functions
  • Neuropsychology
  • Schizophrenia
  • Serotonin transporter gene-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR)
  • Serotoninergic transmission
  • Sustained attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Pharmacology


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