Dissociable contribution of prefrontal and striatal dopaminergic genes to learning in economic games

Eric Set, Ignacio Saez, Lusha Zhu, Daniel E. Houser, Noah Myung, Songfa Zhong, Richard P. Ebstein, Soo Hong Chew, Ming Hsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Game theory describes strategic interactions where success of players' actions depends on those of coplayers. In humans, substantial progress has been made at the neural level in characterizing the dopaminergic and frontostriatal mechanisms mediating such behavior. Here we combined computational modeling of strategic learning with a pathway approach to characterize association of strategic behavior with variations in the dopamine pathway. Specifically, using gene-set analysis, we systematically examined contribution of different dopamine genes to variation in a multistrategy competitive game captured by (i) the degree players anticipate and respond to actions of others (belief learning) and (ii) the speed with which such adaptations take place (learning rate). We found that variation in genes that primarily regulate prefrontal dopamine clearance-catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) and two isoforms of monoamine oxidase-modulated degree of belief learning across individuals. In contrast, we did not find significant association for other genes in the dopamine pathway. Furthermore, variation in genes that primarily regulate striatal dopamine function-dopamine transporter and D2 receptors-was significantly associatedwith the learning rate. We found that this was also the case with COMT, but not for other dopaminergic genes. Together, these findings highlight dissociable roles of frontostriatal systems in strategic learning and support the notion that genetic variation, organized along specific pathways, forms an important source of variation in complex phenotypes such as strategic behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9615-9620
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
StatePublished - Jul 1 2014


  • EigenSNPs
  • Experience-weighted attraction
  • Neuroeconomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Dissociable contribution of prefrontal and striatal dopaminergic genes to learning in economic games'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this