Citation MacLeod CA & Donaldson D (2014) PRKCA polymorphism changes the neural basis of episodic remembering in healthy individuals. PLoS ONE, 9 (5), Art. No.: e98018. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0098018
Abstract Everyday functioning relies on episodic memory, the conscious retrieval of past experiences, but this crucial cognitive ability declines severely with aging and disease. Vulnerability to memory decline varies across individuals however, producing differences in the time course and severity of memory problems that complicate attempts at diagnosis and treatment. Here we identify a key source of variability, by examining gene dependent changes in the neural basis of episodic remembering in healthy adults, targeting seven polymorphisms previously linked to memory. Scalp recorded Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) were measured while participants remembered words, using an item recognition task that requires discrimination between studied and unstudied stimuli. Significant differences were found as a consequence of a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) in just one of the tested genes, PRKCA (rs8074995). Participants with the common G/G variant exhibited left parietal old/new effects, which are typically seen in word recognition studies, reflecting recollection-based remembering. During the same stage of memory retrieval participants carrying a rarer A variant exhibited an atypical pattern of brain activity, a topographically dissociable frontally-distributed old/new effect, even though behavioural performance did not differ between groups. Results replicated in a second independent sample of participants. These findings demonstrate that the PRKCA genotype is important in determining how episodic memories are retrieved, opening a new route towards understanding individual differences in memory.