Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) is a methylation enzyme that catalyzes the degradation pathway and inactivation of dopamine. It is accepted widely as being involved in the modulation of dopaminergic physiology and prefrontal cortex (PFC) function. The COMT Val158Met polymorphism is associated with variation in COMT activity. COMT 158Met allele may be advantageous for PFC-related cognitive abilities; however, it is also associated with increased anxiety, depression, and emotional vulnerability in response to stress or educational adversity. We hypothesized that the COMT polymorphism might be associated with academic performance. In this study, 779 Taiwanese tenth-grade volunteers were recruited. Scores from the Basic Competency Test (BCT), an annual national competitive entrance examination, were used to evaluate academic performance. The results indicated that students bearing homozygous for the Met allele tended to perform more poorly in all BCT subtests as compared to the other groups. In particular, the former performed significantly more poorly in the science and social science subtests. These findings provide evidence that affective factors might overwhelm cognitive abilities in high-stake tests like the BCT.
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