DRD4 polymorphisms modulate reward positivity and P3a in a gambling task: Exploring a genetic basis for cultural learning Academic Article uri icon


  • Prior work shows that people respond more plastically to environmental influences, including cultural influences, if they carry the 7 or 2-repeat (7/2R) allelic variant of the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4). The 7/2R carriers are thus more likely to endorse the norms and values of their culture. So far, however, mechanisms underlying this moderation of cultural acquisition by DRD4 are unclear. To address this gap in knowledge, we tested the hypothesis that DRD4 modulates the processing of reward cues existing in the environment. About 72 young adults, preselected for their DRD4 status, performed a gambling task, while the electroencephalogram was recorded. Principal components of event-related potentials aligned to the Reward-Positivity (associated with bottom-up processing of reward prediction errors) and frontal-P3 (associated with top-down attention) were both significantly more positive following gains than following losses. As predicted, the gain-loss differences were significantly larger for 7/2R carriers than for noncarriers. Also, as predicted, the cultural backgrounds of the participants (East Asian vs. European American) did not moderate the effects of DRD4. Our findings suggest that the 7/2R variant of DRD4 enhances (a) the detection of reward prediction errors and (b) controlled attention that updates the context for the reward, thereby suggesting one possible mechanism underlying the DRD4 × Culture interactions.

author list (cited authors)

  • Glazer, J., King, A., Yoon, C., Liberzon, I., & Kitayama, S.

citation count

  • 1

publication date

  • October 2020