Trait anhedonia is associated with reduced reactivity and connectivity of mesolimbic and paralimbic reward pathways

Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
Journal of Psychiatric Research (Impact Factor: 3.96). 06/2013; 47(10). DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.05.015
Source: PubMed


Anhedonia is the inability to experience pleasure from normally pleasant stimuli. Although anhedonia is a prominent feature of many psychiatric disorders, trait anhedonia is also observed dimensionally in healthy individuals. Currently, the neurobiological basis of anhedonia is poorly understood because it has been mainly investigated in patients with psychiatric disorders. Thus, previous studies have not been able to adequately disentangle the neural correlates of anhedonia from other clinical symptoms. In this study, trait anhedonia was assessed in well-characterized healthy participants with no history of Axis I psychiatric illness. Functional magnetic resonance imaging with musical stimuli was used to examine brain responses and effective connectivity in relation to individual differences in anhedonia. We found that trait anhedonia was negatively correlated with pleasantness ratings of music stimuli and with activation of key brain structures involved in reward processing, including nucleus accumbens (NAc), basal forebrain and hypothalamus which are linked by the medial forebrain bundle to the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Brain regions important for processing salient emotional stimuli, including anterior insula and orbitofrontal cortex were also negatively correlated with trait anhedonia. Furthermore, effective connectivity between NAc, VTA and paralimbic areas, that regulate emotional reactivity to hedonic stimuli, was negatively correlated with trait anhedonia. Our results indicate that trait anhedonia is associated with reduced reactivity and connectivity of mesolimbic and related limbic and paralimbic systems involved in reward processing. Critically, this association can be detected even in individuals without psychiatric illness. Our findings have important implications both for understanding the neurobiological basis of anhedonia and for the treatment of anhedonia in psychiatric disorders.

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    • "rewardingstimuliisstilleffectedinpatientswithdepressioneven whenthefeelingsassociatedwiththerewardingstimuliarenot. Arelatedstudyfoundthatwhenlisteningtopleasantmusical stimuli,activityintheOFC,aswellasthenucleusaccumbens, insula,ACC,ventromedialprefrontalcortex(VMPFC),andthe lateralhypothalamus,wasnegativelycorrelatedwithmeasuresof anhedonia(Kelleretal.,2013). "
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    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 08/2015; 9:404. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00404 · 2.99 Impact Factor
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    • "These findings suggest that the interaction between reward regions may be accountable for the increased reward salience/motivation in substance abusing individuals. Inversely, in a study that looked at the opposing process of hypo-responsivity to reward, namely, anhedonia or the inability to experience pleasure, it was found that attenuated functional connectivity within reward areas (NAc, paralimbic areas) was associated with trait anhedonia (Keller et al., 2013). In summary, sensitivity to rewards appears to be associated with greater functional coherence or integration of the reward network. "
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    Drug and Alcohol Dependence 07/2014; 140. DOI:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2014.04.002 · 3.42 Impact Factor
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    • "Maternal behavior is profoundly associated with the mesolimbic dopaminergic system, which projects from DA cell bodies in the ventral tegmental area to the ventral striatum (Numan and Stolzenberg 2009) and is a major component of the brain reward system (Robbins and Everitt 1996). Dysfunction of the reward system causes anhedonia (Keller et al. 2013), a core symptom of major depression, and may disrupt maternal behavior. "
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