The COMTval158met polymorphism is associated with symptom relief during exposure-based cognitive-behavioral treatment in panic disorder

Lonsdorf, Tina B.; Rück, Christian; Bergström, Jan; Andersson, Gerhard; Öhman, Arne; Lindefors, Nils; Schalling, Martin
January 2010
BMC Psychiatry;2010, Vol. 10, p99
Academic Journal
Background: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) represents a learning process leading to symptom relief and resulting in long-term changes in behavior. CBT for panic disorder is based on exposure and exposure-based processes can be studied in the laboratory as extinction of experimentally acquired fear responses. We have recently demonstrated that the ability to extinguish learned fear responses is associated with a functional genetic polymorphism (COMTval158met) in the COMT gene and this study was aimed at transferring the experimental results on the COMTval158met polymorphism on extinction into a clinical setting. Methods: We tested a possible effect of the COMTval158met polymorphism on the efficacy of CBT, in particular exposure-based treatment modules, in a sample of 69 panic disorder patients. Results: We present evidence that panic patients with the COMTval158met met/met genotype may profit less from (exposure-based) CBT treatment methods as compared to patients carrying at least one val-allele. No association was found with the 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 genotypes which is presented as additional material. Conclusions: We were thus able to transfer findings on the effect of the COMTval158met polymorphism from an experimental extinction study obtained using healthy subjects to a clinical setting. Furthermore patients carrying a COMT val-allele tend to report more anxiety and more depression symptoms as compared to those with the met/met genotype. Limitations of the study as well as possible clinical implications are discussed. Trial registration: Clinical Trial Registry name: Internet-Versus Group-Administered Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Panic Disorder (IP2). Registration Identification number: NCT00845260, http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00845260


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