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A single nucleotide polymorphism rs12807809 located upstream of the neurogranin (NRGN) gene has been identified as a risk variant for schizophrenia in recent genome-wide association studies. To date, there has been little investigation of the endophenotypic consequences of this variant, and our own investigations have suggested that the effects of this gene are not apparent at the level of cognitive function in patients or controls. Because the impact of risk variants may be more apparent at the level of brain, the aim of this investigation was to delineate whether NRGN genotype predicted variability in brain structure and/or function. Healthy individuals participated in structural (N = 140) and/or functional (N = 36) magnetic resonance imaging (s/fMRI). Voxel-based morphometry was used to compare gray and white matter volumes between carriers of the non-risk C allele (i.e., CC/CT) and those who were homozygous for the risk T allele. Functional imaging data were acquired during the performance of a spatial working memory task, and were also analyzed with respect to the difference between C carriers and T homozygotes. There was no effect of the NRGN variant rs12807809 on behavioral performance or brain structure. However, there was a main effect of genotype on brain activity during performance of the working memory task, such that while C carriers exhibited a load-independent decrease in left superior frontal gyrus/BA10, TT individuals failed to show a similar decrease in activity. The failure to disengage this ventromedial prefrontal region, despite preserved performance, may be indicative of a reduction in processing efficiency in healthy TT carriers. Although it remains to be established whether this holds true in larger samples and in patient cohorts, if valid, this suggests a potential mechanism by which NRGN variability might contribute to schizophrenia risk.
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