Investigating the relationship between COMT polymorphisms and working memory performance among childhood brain tumor survivors

Robyn A. Howarth, Amanda M. Adamson, Jason M. Ashford, Thomas E. Merchant, Robert J. Ogg, Stefan E. Schulenberg, Susan Ogg, Jiang Li, Shengjie Wu, Xiaoping Xiong, Heather M. Conklin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Survivors of childhood brain tumors are at increased risk for neurocognitive impairments, including deficits in abilities supported by frontal brain regions. Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) metabolizes dopamine in the prefrontal cortex, with the Met allele resulting in greater dopamine availability and better performance on frontally mediated tasks compared to the Val allele. Given the importance of identifying resiliency factors against the emergence of cognitive late effects, the current study examined the relationship between COMT genotype and working memory performance among childhood brain tumor survivors. Procedure: Children treated for a brain tumor with conformal radiation therapy (N = 50; mean age at irradiation = 7.41 ± 3.41; mean age at assessment = 13.18 ± 2.88) were administered two computerized measures of working memory (self-ordered search verbal and object tasks). Buccal (cheek) swabs were used to provide tissue from which DNA was extracted. Results: Findings revealed an association between COMT genotype and performance on the self-ordered verbal (P = 0.03) but not object task (P = 0.33). Better performance was found for the Met/Val group compared to either Met/Met or Val/Val. Conclusions: COMT may indicate a potential resiliency factor against neurocognitive effects of cancer and its treatment; however, there is a need for replication with larger samples of childhood brain tumor survivors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-45
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric Blood and Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Cancer
  • Dopamine
  • Genetics
  • Late effects
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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