Prefrontal dopamine and the dynamic control of human long-term memory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • B H Schott
  • F Wendler
  • C I Seidenbecher
  • G Behnisch
  • T Macharadze
  • K-H T Bäuml
  • A Richardson-Klavehn

Colleges, School and Institutes


Dopaminergic projections to the prefrontal cortex support higher-order cognitive functions, and are critically involved in many psychiatric disorders that involve memory deficits, including schizophrenia. The role of prefrontal dopamine in long-term memory, however, is still unclear. We used an imaging genetics approach to examine the hypothesis that dopamine availability in the prefrontal cortex selectively affects the ability to suppress interfering memories. Human participants were scanned via functional magnetic resonance imaging while practicing retrieval of previously studied target information in the face of interference from previously studied non-target information. This retrieval practice (RP) rendered the non-target information less retrievable on a later final test-a phenomenon known as retrieval-induced forgetting (RIF). In total, 54 participants were genotyped for the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val(108/158)Met polymorphism. The COMT Val(108/158)Met genotype showed a selective and linear gene-dose effect on RIF, with the Met allele, which leads to higher prefrontal dopamine availability, being associated with greater RIF. Mirroring the behavioral pattern, the functional magnetic resonance imaging data revealed that Met allele carriers, compared with Val allele carriers, showed a greater response reduction in inhibitory control areas of the right inferior frontal cortex during RP, suggesting that they more efficiently reduced interference. These data support the hypothesis that the cortical dopaminergic system is centrally involved in the dynamic control of human long-term memory, supporting efficient remembering via the adaptive suppression of interfering memories.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e15
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Adult, Dopamine, Humans, Inhibition (Psychology), Memory, Long-Term, Mental Recall, Prefrontal Cortex, Young Adult