Cortisol has a modulatory influence on cognitive functions in humans. Both impairing and enhancing effects of cortisol administration have been shown for hippocampus-dependent declarative memory, and impairing effects have been shown for prefrontal-cortex-dependent working memory function. Given the high density of glucocorticoid (GC) receptors in the prefrontal cortex, we investigated whether common polymorphisms of the GC receptor (GR) gene (ER22/23EK, N363S, BclI, 9β A3669G) modulate the influence of cortisol administration on working memory. Working memory performance was investigated in 169 subjects on 10 mg hydrocortisone (cortisol) and placebo using an item recognition task. No impairing effect of hydrocortisone treatment became evident. However, a sex × genotype interaction on general working memory performance was revealed (p = 0.02). While female heterozygous carriers of the 9β G allele displayed faster reaction times than the other genotype groups, 9β G heterozygous men were relatively slower. Heritability estimates for memory are roughly 50%, indicating that common genetic polymorphisms have an important impact on cognitive performance. Our results suggest that variants of the GR gene might explain some of the variance attributable to genetic factors. Furthermore, it can be speculated that they modulate the individual vulnerability for memory impairments related to stress-related psychiatric disorders. Copyright

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Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Kumsta, R., Entringer, S., Koper, J., van Rossum, L., Hellhammer, D. H., & Wüst, S. (2009). Working memory performance Is associated with common glucocorticoid receptor gene polymorphisms. Neuropsychobiology, 61(1), 49–56. doi:10.1159/000262180