Social Cognition, Face Processing, and Oxytocin Receptor Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in Typically Developing Children

Mylissa M. Slane, Bucknell University
Laina G. Lusk, Bucknell University
K B. Boomer, Bucknell University
Abby E. Hare, Bucknell University
Margaret K. King, Bucknell University
David W. Evans, Bucknell University


Recent research has provided evidence of a link between behavioral measures of social cognition (SC) and neural and genetic correlates. Differences in face processing and variations in the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene have been associated with SC deficits and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) traits. Much work has examined the qualitative differences between those with ASD and typically developing (TD) individuals, but very little has been done to quantify the natural variation in ASD-like traits in the typical population. The present study examines this variation in TD children using a multidimensional perspective involving behavior assessment, neural electroencephalogram (EEG) testing, and OXTR genotyping. Children completed a series of neurocognitive assessments, provided saliva samples for sequencing, and completed a face processing task while connected to an EEG. No clear pattern emerged for EEG covariates or genotypes for individual OXTR single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). However, SNPs rs2254298 and rs53576 consistently interacted such that the AG/GG allele combination of these SNPs was associated with poorer performance on neurocognitive measures. These results suggest that neither SNP in isolation is risk-conferring, but rather that the combination of rs2254298(A/G) and rs53576(G/G) confers a deleterious effect on SC across several neurocognitive measures.

Copyright 2014. Published by Elsevier Ltd.