We investigated the association between hypnotizability, COMT polymorphism, P50 suppression ratio, and prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle response (ASR) in 21 high (HH) and 19 low (LH) hypnotizable subjects. The frequency of Met/Met carriers of COMT polymorphysm was higher in HH than in LH group (33.3% versus 10.6%, p = .049). Increased ASR amplitude and latency and decreased prepulse inhibition at 120 ms lead interval were found in the HH compared to the LH group. The effect of COMT genotype on prepulse inhibition was observed in LH group only. No between-group differences in P50 measures were found. The obtained results suppose the participation of dopamine system in mechanisms of hypnotizability and different allocation of attentional resources in HH and LH subjects.
Genetic factors may explain part of the interindividual variability in hypnotizability. A new avenue that may provide more comprehensive understanding of the phenotypic effects of genetic variations is the study of gene–trait interaction. In this study, the authors investigate the relationship of the dopamine-related COMT and the serotonin-related 5-HTTLPR polymorphisms to hypnotizability by taking individual differences in executive attention into account. Homozygosity for the COMT Met allele, putatively linked to the capability or proneness to dissociate from reality, was associated with high hypnotizability only if paired with high-attention ability. The finding can be integrated into hypnosis theory and represents a case of gene–trait interaction suggesting that investigating the effects of a gene in the context of relevant psychological traits may further elucidate gene-brain-behavior relationships.