Converging evidence in neurophysiological and neuroimaging studies has suggested that the limbic and prefrontal systems play important roles in emotion and cognition. These structures are activated when we see a human face, assuming that we automatically evaluate the biological significance of the stimuli. The serotonin (5-HT) system within the brain has been tied to various behaviors such as mood and anxiety and to the biology of neuropsychiatric disorders. To investigate the link between the 5-HT system and limbic/prefrontal activity, normal subjects (n = 26) who underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging and faced recognition tasks were genotyped for the single nucleotide polymorphism C178T in the regulatory region of the serotonin receptor type 3 gene (HTR3A). We found that the subjects with C/C alleles had greater activity in the amygdala and dorsal and medial prefrontal cortices than those with C/T alleles. The C/C group also showed a faster reaction time during the task than the C/T group. The temperamental predisposition of the subjects had a significant correlation with brain activity in the C/C group. The genotype effect in the right amygdala and prefrontal cortex was largest during the first run of the experiment. These results indicate that the C178T variation in the HTR3A has a critical influence on the amygdaloid activity and on human face processing, probably through regulation of the receptor expression. The present study may contribute to elucidating a possible link among genes, the brain, and behavior in normal populations and may help reveal the biological basis of neuropsychiatric disorders.
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