Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Little agreement exists as to acute dopamine (DA) manipulation effects on intertemporal choice in humans. We previously found that catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met genotype predicts individual differences in immediate reward selection bias among adults. Moreover, we and others have shown that the relationship between COMT genotype and immediate reward bias is inverted in adolescents. No previous pharmacology studies testing DA manipulation effects on intertemporal choice have accounted for COMT genotype, and many have included participants in the adolescent age range (18–21 years) as adults. Moreover, many studies have included female participants without strict cycle phase control, although recent evidence demonstrates that cyclic estradiol elevations interact with COMT genotype to affect DA-dependent cognition. These factors may have interacted with DA manipulations in past studies, potentially occluding detection of effects. Therefore, we predicted that, among healthy male adults (ages 22–40 years), frontal DA tone, as indexed by COMT genotype, would interact with acute changes in DA signaling to affect intertemporal choice. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled design, we decreased central DA via administration of an amino acid beverage deficient in the DA precursors, phenylalanine and tyrosine, and tested effects on immediate reward bias in a delay-discounting (DD) task and working memory (WM) in an n-back task. We found no main effect of beverage on DD or WM performance but did find significant beverage*genotype effects. These results suggest that the effect of DA manipulations on DD depends on individual differences in frontal DA tone, which may have impeded some past efforts to characterize DA's role in immediate reward bias in humans.