Investigating subtypes of reward processing deficits as trait markers for depression

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Frey, A.-L. ; Malinowska, L. ; Harley, K. ; Salhi, L. ; Sharma, S. ; McCabe, Ciara (2015)
  • Publisher: Co action Publishing
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/tdp.v3.27517
  • Subject:
    mesheuropmc: behavior and behavior mechanisms | behavioral disciplines and activities | psychological phenomena and processes

Background: Anhedonia, the loss of pleasure in usually enjoyable activities, is a central feature of major depressive disorder (MDD). The aim of the present study was to examine whether young people at a familial risk of depression display signs of anticipatory, motivational or consummatory anhedonia, which would indicate that these deficits may be trait markers for MDD.\ud \ud Methods: The study was completed by 22 participants with a family history of depression (FH+) and 21 controls (HC). Anticipatory anhedonia was assessed by asking participants to rate their anticipated liking of pleasant and unpleasant foods which they imagined tasting when cued with images of the foods. Motivational anhedonia was measured by requiring participants to perform key presses to obtain pleasant chocolate taste rewards or to avoid unpleasant apple tastes. Additionally, physical consummatory anhedonia was examined by instructing participants to rate the pleasantness of the acquired tastes. Moreover, social consummatory anhedonia was investigated by asking participants to make preference-based choices between neutral facial expressions, genuine smiles, and polite smiles.\ud \ud Results: It was found that the FH+ group’s anticipated liking of unpleasant foods was significantly lower than that of the control group. By contrast, no group differences in the pleasantness ratings of the actually experienced tastes or in the amount of performed key presses were observed. However, controls preferred genuine smiles over neutral expressions more often than they preferred polite smiles over neutral expressions, while this pattern was not seen in the FH+ group.\ud \ud Conclusion: These findings suggest that FH+ individuals demonstrate an altered anticipatory response to negative stimuli and show signs of social consummatory anhedonia, which may be trait markers for depression.
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