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Evidence for a gene–environment interaction in predicting behavioral inhibition in middle childhood

By Nathan A. Fox, Kate E. Nichols, Heather A. Henderson, Kenneth Rubin, Louis Schmidt, Dean Hamer, Monique Ernst and Daniel S. Pine


ABSTRACT—Gene-environment interactions are presumed to shape human behavior during early development. However, no human research has demonstrated that such interactions lead to stable individual differences in fear responses. We tested this possibility by focusing on a polymorphism in the promoter region of the gene for the serotonin transporter (5-HTT). This polymorphism has been linked to many indices of serotonin activity. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that an interaction between children’s 5-HTTstatus and maternal reports of social support predicts inhibited behavior with unfamiliar peers in middle childhood. Results were consistent with this hypothesis: Children with the combination of the short 5-HTT allele and low social support had increased risk for behavioral inhibition in middle childhood. Various mammalian species exhibit stable individual differences in fearful behavior that reflect gene-environment interactions. For example, studies in rodents show that environmental influences produce individual differences in fear responses through interactions with genes (Gross & Hen, 2004; Meaney, 2001). Recently, studies have implicated a functional polymorphism in the promoter region of the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) in these Address correspondence to Nathan A. Fox, University of Maryland

Year: 2005
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