Background. Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met has been associated with activity of the mesial temporal lobe during episodic memory and it may weakly increase risk for schizophrenia. However, how this variant affects parahippocampal and hippocampal physiology when dopamine transmission is perturbed is unclear. The aim of the present study was to compare the effects of the COMT Val158Met genotype on parahippocampal and hippocampal physiology during encoding of recognition memory in patients with schizophrenia and in healthy subjects. Method. Using blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we studied 28 patients with schizophrenia and 33 healthy subjects matched for a series of sociodemographic and genetic variables while they performed a recognition memory task. Results. We found that healthy subjects had greater parahippocampal and hippocampal activity during memory encoding compared to patients with schizophrenia. We also found different activity of the parahippocampal region between healthy subjects and patients with schizophrenia as a function of the COMT genotype, in that the predicted COMT Met allele dose effect had an opposite direction in controls and patients. Conclusions. Our results demonstrate a COMT Val158Met genotype by diagnosis interaction in parahippocampal activity during memory encoding and may suggest that modulation of dopamine signaling interacts with other disease-related processes in determining the phenotype of parahippocampal physiology in schizophrenia.
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