Gene by culture effects on emotional processing of social cues among East Asians and European Americans

Arash Javanbakht, Steve Tompson, Shinobu Kitayama, Anthony King, Carolyn Yoon, Israel Liberzon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


While Western cultures are more focused on individualization and self-expression, East Asian cultures promote interrelatedness. Largely unknown is how gene by culture interactions influence the degree to which individuals acquire culture, and the neurocircuitry underlying how social cues are processed. We sought to examine the interaction between DRD4 polymorphism and culture in the neural processing of social emotional cues. 19 Asian-born East Asian (AA) and 20 European American (EA) participants performed a shifted attention emotion appraisal functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) task, which probes implicit emotional processing and regulation in response to social emotional cues. Half of the participants in each group were DRD4 2-or 7-repeat allele (2R/7R) carriers. AA participants showed larger left and right amygdala, and left hippocampal activation during implicit processing of fearful faces. There was a gene by culture interaction in the left insula during implicit processing of facial cues, while activation in EA DRD4 2R/7R carriers was larger than EA non-carriers and AA carriers. Our findings suggest that emotional facial cues are more salient to AA participants and elicit a larger amygdala reaction. Gene by culture interaction finding in insula suggests that DRD4 2R/7R carriers in each culture are more prone to adopting their cultural norm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number62
JournalBehavioral Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 11 2018


  • Amygdala
  • Culture
  • Emotion
  • Gene
  • Insula
  • Social

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Development
  • Genetics
  • Psychology(all)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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