Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) results in variable clinical outcomes, which may be influenced by genetic variation. A single-nucleotide polymorphism in catechol-o-methyltransferase (COMT), an enzyme which degrades catecholamine neurotransmitters, may influence cognitive deficits following moderate and/or severe head trauma. However, this has been disputed, and its role in mTBI has not been studied. Here, we utilize the Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury Pilot (TRACK-TBI Pilot) study to investigate whether the COMT Val158Met polymorphism influences outcome on a cognitive battery 6 months following mTBI—Wechsler Adult Intelligence Test Processing Speed Index Composite Score (WAIS-PSI), Trail Making Test (TMT) Trail B minus Trail A time, and California Verbal Learning Test, Second Edition Trial 1–5 Standard Score (CVLT-II). All patients had an emergency department Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) of 13–15, no acute intracranial pathology on head CT, and no polytrauma as defined by an Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) score of ≥3 in any extracranial region. Results in 100 subjects aged 40.9 (SD 15.2) years (COMT Met158/Met158 29 %, Met158/Val158 47 %, Val158/Val158 24 %) show that the COMT Met158 allele (mean 101.6 ± SE 2.1) associates with higher nonverbal processing speed on the WAIS-PSI when compared to Val158/Val158 homozygotes (93.8 ± SE 3.0) after controlling for demographics and injury severity (mean increase 7.9 points, 95 % CI [1.4 to 14.3], p = 0.017). The COMT Val158Met polymorphism did not associate with mental flexibility on the TMT or with verbal learning on the CVLT-II. Hence, COMT Val158Met may preferentially modulate nonverbal cognition following uncomplicated mTBI. Registry: Identifier NCT01565551

Cognitive function, Genetic factors, Human studies, Outcome measures, Traumatic brain injury,
Department of Public Health

Winkler, E.A, Yue, J.K, McAllister, T.W, Temkin, N.R, Oh, S.S, Burchard, E.G, … Manley, G. (2016). COMT Val 158 Met polymorphism is associated with nonverbal cognition following mild traumatic brain injury. Neurogenetics, 17(1), 31–41. doi:10.1007/s10048-015-0467-8