Acute stress reduces reward responsiveness: implications for depression

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
Biological Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 10.25). 12/2006; 60(10):1147-54. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.03.037
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Stress, one of the strongest risk factors for depression, has been linked to "anhedonic" behavior and dysfunctional reward-related neural circuitry in preclinical models.
To test if acute stress reduces reward responsiveness (i.e., the ability to modulate behavior as a function of past reward), a signal-detection task coupled with a differential reinforcement schedule was utilized. Eighty female participants completed the task under both a stress condition, either threat-of-shock (n = 38) or negative performance feedback (n = 42), and a no-stress condition.
Stress increased negative affect and anxiety. As hypothesized based on preclinical findings, stress, particularly the threat-of-shock condition, impaired reward responsiveness. Regression analyses indicate that self-report measures of anhedonia predicted stress-induced hedonic deficits even after controlling for anxiety symptoms.
These findings indicate that acute stress reduces reward responsiveness, particularly in individuals with anhedonic symptoms. Stress-induced hedonic deficit is a promising candidate mechanism linking stressful experiences to depression.

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Available from: Ryan Bogdan, Jul 19, 2015
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    • "Privileging escape/avoidance as a behavioral strategy can result in diminished reward sensitivity (Bogdan & Pizzagalli, 2006) and inferior discrimination of cues signaling rewards of differing value (Forbes, Shaw, & Dahl, 2007). Individuals with distress disorders also exhibit deficits in threat and safety learning. "
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    • "Each participant was exposed to the same reward ratio. Reward learning was defined as the difference in response bias between Block 1 and Block 3 (Pizzagalli et al., 2005; Bogdan and Pizzagalli, 2006; Pizzagalli et al., 2008). "
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    • "Using the Monetary Incentive Delay task with fMRI, reward-related responses in the medial prefrontal cortex were reduced following presentation of aversive film clips (Ossewaarde et al., 2011). Threat of shock has also been shown to reduce reward sensitivity on a signal detection task (Bogdan and Pizzagalli, 2006), and an associated event-related potentials measure (the feedback-related positivity); moreover, these effects were related to genetic variation in a corticotropin-releasing hormone polymorphism (Bogdan et al., 2011). Such stress-related disruptions of reward processing may have important implications for disorders characterized by risk-taking (such as drug addiction and problem gambling) where symptoms or drug-seeking may be elevated by stress exposure (Sinha, 2008). "
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