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The serotonin transporter linked polymorphic region and brain-derived neurotrophic factor valine to methionine at position 66 polymorphisms and maternal history of depression: Associations with cognitive vulnerability to depression in childhood

  • Elizabeth P. Hayden (a1), Thomas M. Olino (a2), Sara J. Bufferd (a2), Anna Miller (a2), Lea R. Dougherty (a2), Haroon I. Sheikh (a1), Shiva M. Singh (a1) and Daniel N. Klein (a2)...


Preliminary work indicates that cognitive vulnerability to depression may be associated with variants of the serotonin transporter promoter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) and the valine to methionine at position 66 (val66met) polymorphism of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene; however, existing reports come from small samples. The present study sought to replicate and extend this research in a sample of 375 community-dwelling children and their parents. Following a negative mood induction, children completed a self-referent encoding task tapping memory for positive and negative self-descriptive traits. Consistent with previous work, we found that children with at least one short variant of the 5-HTTLPR had enhanced memory for negative self-descriptive traits. The BDNF val66met polymorphism had no main effect but was moderated by maternal depression, such that children with a BDNF methionine allele had a heightened memory for negative self-descriptive traits when mothers had experienced depression during children's lifetimes; in contrast, children with a methionine allele had low recall of negative traits when mothers had no depression history. The findings provide further support for the notion that the 5-HTTLPR is associated with cognitive markers of depression vulnerability and that the BDNF methionine allele moderates children's sensitivity to contextual factors.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Elizabeth P. Hayden, University of Western Ontario, Department of Psychology, London, ON N6A 3K7, Canada; E-mail:


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