BACKGROUND: Neuroimaging studies reliably identify two markers of error commission: the error-related negativity (ERN), an event-related potential, and functional MRI activation of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC). While theorized to reflect the same neural process, recent evidence suggests that the ERN arises from the posterior cingulate cortex not the dACC. Here, we tested the hypothesis that these two error markers also have different genetic mediation.
METHODS: We measured both error markers in a sample of 92 comprised of healthy individuals and those with diagnoses of schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder or autism spectrum disorder. Participants performed the same task during functional MRI and simultaneously acquired magnetoencephalography and electroencephalography. We examined the mediation of the error markers by two single nucleotide polymorphisms: dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) C-521T (rs1800955), which has been associated with the ERN and methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) C677T (rs1801133), which has been associated with error-related dACC activation. We then compared the effects of each polymorphism on the two error markers modeled as a bivariate response.
RESULTS: We replicated our previous report of a posterior cingulate source of the ERN in healthy participants in the schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder groups. The effect of genotype on error markers did not differ significantly by diagnostic group. DRD4 C-521T allele load had a significant linear effect on ERN amplitude, but not on dACC activation, and this difference was significant. MTHFR C677T allele load had a significant linear effect on dACC activation but not ERN amplitude, but the difference in effects on the two error markers was not significant.
CONCLUSIONS: DRD4 C-521T, but not MTHFR C677T, had a significant differential effect on two canonical error markers. Together with the anatomical dissociation between the ERN and error-related dACC activation, these findings suggest that these error markers have different neural and genetic mediation.