Genetically mediated resistance to distraction: Influence of dopamine transporter genotype on attentional selection

Mark Andrew Bellgrove, Daniel Patrick Newman, Tarrant Cummins, Janette Tong, Beth Patricia Johnson, Joseph Wagner, Jack Goodrich, Ziarih Hawi, Christopher Chambers

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster


Although lateral differences, or asymmetries, in spatial attention have been linked to inter-hemispheric differences in dopamine signaling, it remains unclear whether such effects are primarily motoric or attentional in nature. Here we took a cognitive genetic approach to adjudicate between roles for dopamine in attentional versus response selection. A sample of non-clinical adults (N=518) performed three cognitive tasks (attentional competition, spatial cuing and flanker tasks) that varied in the degree to which they required participants to resolve attentional competition or response competition. All participants were genotyped for functional tandem repeat polymorphisms of the dopamine transporter gene (DAT1; SLC6A3) which influence the level of available synaptic dopamine and confer risk to disorders of inattention. DAT1 genotype modulated the effects of the irrelevant stimuli during the spatial competition but not the spatial cuing and flanker tasks. Specifically, compared to individuals who were heterozygous or homozygous for the 10-repeat allele of a tandem repeat polymorphism, individuals without this allele demonstrated a remarkable immunity to distraction in the left hemifield, such that response times were unaffected by increases in the number of distractor stimuli when they were presented to the left hemi-field. All three genotype groups exhibited uniform costs of resolving leftward response selection in a standard flanker task. The key effect could be explained by speed/accuracy trade-offs and therefore suggest that participants without the 10 repeat allele of the DAT1 tandem repeat polymorphism possess an enhanced attentional ability to suppress task-irrelevant stimuli in the left hemifield.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2015
EventXII International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience - Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane, Australia
Duration: 27 Jul 201431 Jul 2014
Conference number: 12


ConferenceXII International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience
Abbreviated titleICON-XII
Internet address

Cite this

Bellgrove, M. A., Newman, D. P., Cummins, T., Tong, J., Johnson, B. P., Wagner, J., Goodrich, J., Hawi, Z., & Chambers, C. (2015). Genetically mediated resistance to distraction: Influence of dopamine transporter genotype on attentional selection. Poster session presented at XII International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience , Brisbane, Australia.