Catechol-O-methyltransferase val158met polymorphism interacts with sex to affect face recognition ability

Yvette N. Lamb, Nicole S. McKay, Shrimal S. Singh, Karen E. Waldie, Ian J. Kirk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) val158met polymorphism affects the breakdown of synaptic dopamine. Consequently, this polymorphism has been associated with a variety of neurophysiological and behavioral outcomes. Some of the effects have been found to be sex-specific and it appears estrogen may act to down-regulate the activity of the COMT enzyme. The dopaminergic system has been implicated in face recognition, a form of cognition for which a female advantage has typically been reported. This study aimed to investigate potential joint effects of sex and COMT genotype on face recognition. A sample of 142 university students was genotyped and assessed using the Faces I subtest of the Wechsler Memory Scale - Third Edition (WMS-III). A significant two-way interaction between sex and COMT genotype on face recognition performance was found. Of the male participants, COMT val homozygotes and heterozygotes had significantly lower scores than met homozygotes. Scores did not differ between genotypes for female participants. While male val homozygotes had significantly lower scores than female val homozygotes, no sex differences were observed in the heterozygotes and met homozygotes. This study contributes to the accumulating literature documenting sex-specific effects of the COMT polymorphism by demonstrating a COMT-sex interaction for face recognition, and is consistent with a role for dopamine in face recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number965
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJUN
StatePublished - Jun 27 2016


  • COMT
  • Gene-sex interaction
  • Memory
  • Neurogenetics
  • Recognition


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