A polymorphism in the gene of the endocannabinoid-degrading enzyme FAAH (FAAH C385A) is associated with emotional-motivational reactivity

Annette Conzelmann, Andreas Reif, Christian Jacob, Peter Weyers, Klaus-Peter Lesch, Beat Lutz, Paul Pauli*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Web of Science)


The endocannabinoid (eCB) system is implicated in several psychiatric disorders. Investigating emotional-motivational dysfunctions as underlying mechanisms, a study in humans revealed that in the C385A polymorphism of the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), the degrading enzyme of the eCB anandamide (AEA), A carriers, who are characterized by increased signaling of AEA as compared to C/C carriers, exhibited reduced brain reactivity towards unpleasant faces and enhanced reactivity towards reward. However, the association of eCB system with emotional-motivational reactivity is complex and bidirectional due to upcoming compensatory processes.Therefore, we further investigated the relationship of the FAAH polymorphism and emotional-motivational reactivity in humans.We assessed the affect-modulated startle, and ratings of valence and arousal in response to higher arousing pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant pictures in 67 FAAH C385A C/C carriers and 45 A carriers.Contrarily to the previous functional MRI study, A carriers compared to C/C carriers exhibited an increased startle potentiation and therefore emotional responsiveness towards unpleasant picture stimuli and reduced startle inhibition indicating reduced emotional reactivity in response to pleasant pictures, while both groups did not differ in ratings of arousal and valence.Our findings emphasize the bidirectionality and thorough examination of the eCB system's impact on emotional reactivity as a central endophenotype underlying various psychiatric disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-579
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • FAAH
  • Genetics
  • Endocannabinoid
  • Emotion
  • Startle reflex

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