The relationship between risk-taking propensity and the COMT Val 158Met polymorphism among early adolescents as a function of sex

Ananda B. Amstadter, Laura MacPherson, Frances Wang, Anne N. Banducci, Elizabeth Keats Reynolds, Marc N. Potenza, Joel Gelernter, C. W. Lejuez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although adolescents frequently engage in a variety of risky behaviors, much remains unknown about the specific etiologies of such tendencies. Candidate genetic variants, such as the COMT Val 158Met polymorphism, may be related to risk-taking propensity, particularly as this variant is linked to functional enzymatic differences influencing dopamine function in regions including the prefrontal cortex. The present study aimed to examine the COMT Val 158Met variant in relation to risk-taking propensity in a community sample of youth. As part of a larger longitudinal study on adolescent risk behaviors, 223 youths (average age 11.3 years) from the metropolitan Washington D.C. area completed a measure of risk-taking propensity, the Balloon Analog Risk Task-Youth Version (BART-Y), and provided saliva samples for DNA extraction and genotyping. Results indicate that females, but not males, who are carriers of the COMT 158Met allele had higher risk-taking propensity scores on the BART-Y compared to Val homozygotes. Analyses were also conducted in the 111 European American participants, and results were consistent with those of the full sample analyses. This study represents the first investigation of a genetic substrate of risk-taking propensity, measured by a behavioral task, in youth. Results should be taken as quite preliminary, given the small sample. Implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)940-945
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes



  • Adolescents
  • BART
  • COMT Val Met
  • Dopamine
  • Risk-taking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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