Stressful life events moderate the relationship between genes and biased attention to emotional faces in youth

Jessica L. Jenness, Benjamin L. Hankin, Jami F. Young, Andrew Smolen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Attention bias to emotion may be an intermediate trait for stress-reactive psychopathology associated with biologically plausible candidate genes, yet the precise direction of effects within the youth literature remains unclear. The present study investigated whether stressful life events (SLEs) moderate the link between genetic risk (5-HTTLPR and COMT) and attention bias to emotion among youth (N = 467). Analyses revealed a differential effect of gene. Among youth who had experienced more recent SLEs, those homozygous for the low expressing allele of 5-HTTLPR (S/S) demonstrated preferential attention toward negative emotional expressions, whereas youth homozygous for the high expressing COMT genotype (Val/Val) showed attentional avoidance of positive facial expressions. No interaction between 5-HTTLPR and COMT was found. These findings highlight the importance of investigating stress as a moderator within the intermediate trait literature and suggest that biologically plausible candidate genes may have a differential effect in the pathway to psychological disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-400
Number of pages15
JournalClinical Psychological Science
Volume4
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Emotion processing biases
  • Genetics
  • Intermediate trait
  • Stress
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology

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