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A Polymorphism Related to Methylation Influences Attention during Performance of Speeded Skills

University of Oregon, USA

Topical Section: Neural Mechanisms of Attention

The executive attention network is important for resolving conflict among responses thus allowing us to control voluntary behavior in the face of competition. We have previously shown that individual differences in the efficiency of performing conflict tasks are related to genetic differences. In this study we examine whether performance by adults in conflict tasks is related to a polymorphism that influences the efficiency of methylation. We find that variation in a gene associated with higher rates of methylation is related to better performance in speeded tasks involving the resolution of conflict. Reaction time in conflict tasks improves with development and with practice. Although most theories of skilled performance support a monotonic improvement in reaction time with practice, our data suggest that for some people, waning attention can lead to an increase in reaction time late in practice. Variation in a gene facilitating norepinephrine production was associated with increased reaction time. We discuss the efficiency of myelination and release of dopamine within neural networks relevant to the resolution of conflict as possible mechanisms for methylation as an influence on skilled behavior.
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