Genetic moderation of the association between regulatory focus and reward responsiveness: a proof-of-concept study.

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UNLABELLED: BACKGROUND: Recent studies implicate individual differences in regulatory focus as contributing to self-regulatory dysfunction, particularly not responding to positive outcomes. How such individual differences emerge, however, is unclear. We conducted a proof-of-concept study to examine the moderating effects of genetically driven variation in dopamine signaling, a key modulator of neural reward circuits, on the association between regulatory focus and reward cue responsiveness. METHOD: Healthy Caucasians (N=59) completed a measure of chronic regulatory focus and a probabilistic reward task. A common functional genetic polymorphism impacting prefrontal dopamine signaling (COMT rs4680) was evaluated. RESULTS: Response bias, the participants' propensity to modulate behavior as a function of reward, was predicted by an interaction of regulatory focus and COMT genotype. Specifically, self-perceived success at achieving promotion goals predicted total response bias, but only for individuals with the COMT genotype (Val/Val) associated with relatively increased phasic dopamine signaling and cognitive flexibility. CONCLUSIONS: The combination of success in promotion goal pursuit and Val/Val genotype appears to facilitate responding to reward opportunities in the environment. This study is among the first to integrate an assessment of self-regulatory style with an examination of genetic variability that underlies responsiveness to positive outcomes in goal pursuit.






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Goetz, EL, AR Hariri, DA Pizzagalli and TJ Strauman (2013). Genetic moderation of the association between regulatory focus and reward responsiveness: a proof-of-concept study. Biol Mood Anxiety Disord, 3(1). p. 3. 10.1186/2045-5380-3-3 Retrieved from

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Timothy J. Strauman

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

FOR POTENTIAL STUDENTS (fall 2024 class): 

Dr. Timothy Strauman and Dr. Ann Brewster will be seeking to admit a student for Fall 2024 who will be an important member of their collaborative projects. Dr. Brewster is an intervention scientist and a faculty member in Duke’s Social Science Research Institute. The collaborative projects focus on creating, testing, and implementing school-based therapeutic and preventive interventions for adolescents at risk for negative academic and mental health outcomes. We are partnering with the Durham Public Schools as well as with other local school districts, and Dr. Brewster has extensive experience and expertise in developing the partnerships, working with community members, and the intervention process itself. We are especially interested in applicants with experience in community-based interventions, with interests in adolescence, and with knowledge and experience working with both behavioral and neuroimaging data.

Professor Strauman's research focuses on the psychological and neurobiological processes that enable self-regulation, conceptualized in terms of a cognitive/motivational perspective, as well as the relation between self-regulation and affect. Particular areas of emphasis include: (1) conceptualizing self-regulation in terms of brain/behavior motivational systems; (2) the role of self-regulatory cognitive processes in vulnerability to depression and other disorders; (3) the impact of treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy and medication, on self-regulatory function and dysfunction in depression; (4) how normative and non-normative socialization patterns influence the development of self-regulatory systems; (5) the contributory roles of self-regulation, affect, and psychopathology in determining immunologically-mediated susceptibility to illness; (6) development of novel multi-component treatments for depression targeting self-regulatory dysfunction; (7) utilization of brain imaging techniques to test hypotheses concerning self-regulation, including the nature and function of hypothetical regulatory systems and characterizing the breakdowns in self-regulation that lead to and accompany depression.

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