Abstract: The processing of reward and reinforcement learning seems to be important determinants of pain chronicity. However, reward processing is already altered early in life and if this is related to the development of pain symptoms later on is not known. The aim of this study was first to examine whether behavioural and brain-related indicators of reward processing at the age of 14 to 15 years are significant predictors of pain complaints 2 years later, at 16 to 17 years. Second, we investigated the contribution of genetic variations in the opioidergic system, which is linked to the processing of both, reward and pain, to this prediction. We used the monetary incentive delay task to assess reward processing, the Children's Somatization Inventory as measure of pain complaints and tested the effects of 2 single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1799971/rs563649) of the human µ-opioid receptor gene. We found a significant prediction of pain complaints by responses in the dorsal striatum during reward feedback, independent of genetic predisposition. The relationship of pain complaints and activation in the periaqueductal gray and ventral striatum depended on the T-allele of rs563649. Carriers of this allele also showed more pain complaints than CC-allele carriers. Therefore, brain responses to reward outcomes and higher sensitivity to pain might be related already early in life and may thus set the course for pain complaints later in life, partly depending on a specific opioidergic genetic predisposition.
Abstract: The processing of emotional faces is an important prerequisite for adequate social interactions in daily life, and might thus specifically be altered in adolescence, a period marked by significant changes in social emotional processing. Previous research has shown that the cannabinoid receptor CB1R is associated with longer gaze duration and increased brain responses in the striatum to happy faces in adults, yet, for adolescents, it is not clear whether an association between CBR1 and face processing exists. In the present study we investigated genetic effects of the two CB1R polymorphisms, rs1049353 and rs806377, on the processing of emotional faces in healthy adolescents. They participated in functional magnetic resonance imaging during a Faces Task, watching blocks of video clips with angry and neutral facial expressions, and completed a Morphed Faces Task in the laboratory where they looked at different facial expressions that switched from anger to fear or sadness or from happiness to fear or sadness, and labelled them according to these four emotional expressions. A‐allele versus GG‐carriers in rs1049353 displayed earlier recognition of facial expressions changing from anger to sadness or fear, but not for expressions changing from happiness to sadness or fear, and higher brain responses to angry, but not neutral, faces in the amygdala and insula. For rs806377 no significant effects emerged. This suggests that rs1049353 is involved in the processing of negative facial expressions with relation to anger in adolescence. These findings add to our understanding of social emotion‐related mechanisms in this life period.