BDNF Val(66)Met Polymorphism Is Associated with Self-Reported Empathy
Chagnon, Yvon C.
Jackson, Philip L.
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Empathy is an important driver of human social behaviors and presents genetic roots that have been studied in neuroimaging using the intermediate phenotype approach. Notably, the Val66Met polymorphism of the Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene has been identified as a potential target in neuroimaging studies based on its influence on emotion perception and social cognition, but its impact on self-reported empathy has never been documented. Using a neurogenetic approach, we investigated the association between the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism and self-reported empathy (Davis’ Interpersonal Reactivity Index; IRI) in a sample of 110 young adults. Our results indicate that the BDNF genotype is significantly associated with the linear combination of the four facets of the IRI, one of the most widely used self-reported empathy questionnaire. Crucially, the effect of BDNF Val66Met goes beyond the variance explained by two polymorphisms of the oxytocin transporter gene previously associated with empathy and its neural underpinnings (OXTR rs53576 and rs2254298). These results represent the first evidence suggesting a link between the BDNF gene and self-reported empathy and warrant further studies of this polymorphism due to its potential clinical significance.