Unipolar depression does not moderate responses to the Sweet Taste Test

Department of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, 101 Manning Drive, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3366, USA.
Depression and Anxiety (Impact Factor: 4.41). 09/2010; 27(9):859-63. DOI: 10.1002/da.20690
Source: PubMed


The Sweet Taste Test (STT) measures hedonic responses to sweet tastes and has been linked to both alcoholism and to a family history of alcoholism. However, STT response profiles in unipolar major depressive disorder (MDD), a disorder characterized by anhedonia, have been minimally investigated.
Twelve adults with and 15 adults without MDD participated in two identical STT assessments separated by approximately 12 weeks. Between assessments, MDD outpatients received Behavioral Activation Therapy for Depression, a psychotherapy modality designed to increase engagement with rewarding stimuli and reduce avoidance behaviors. Primary-dependent measures included sensitivity to sucrose, hedonic response to sucrose, and designation as a Sweet-Liker or Sweet-Disliker.
A total of 75% of adults with MDD were treatment responders. There were no significant differences in STT response profiles between groups overall or at either timepoint. Furthermore, STT profiles of MDD participants did not differ after psychotherapy, relative to baseline.
Findings suggest that although anhedonia is a symptom of MDD, the disorder is not characterized by altered responses to sweet tastes. Implications and future directions are discussed.

Download full-text


Available from: James C Garbutt
  • Source
    • "Importantly, most studies of depressed patients and non-clinical participants with depressive symptoms report similar, or higher, pleasantness ratings to sweet solutions (Amsterdam et al., 1987; Berlin et al., 1998; Scinska et al., 2004; Swiecicki et al., 2009; Dichter et al., 2010) and various odors (Steiner et al., 1993; Pause et al., 2001; Lombion-Pouthier et al., 2006; Scinska et al., 2008; Swiecicki et al., 2009; Clepce et al., 2010), compared to healthy controls. Similarly, studies of patients suffering from schizophrenia fail to show decreased hedonic reactivity to pleasurable stimuli in comparison to healthy controls (Heerey and Gold, 2007; Barch and Dowd, 2010; Strauss and Gold, 2012). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Anhedonia, the lack of pleasure, has been shown to be a critical feature of a range of psychiatric disorders. Yet, it is currently measured primarily through subjective self-reports and as such has been difficult to submit to rigorous scientific analysis. New insights from affective neuroscience hold considerable promise in improving our understanding of anhedonia and for providing useful objective behavioral measures to complement traditional self-report measures, potentially leading to better diagnoses and novel treatments. Here, we review the state-of-the-art of hedonia research and specifically the established mechanisms of wanting, liking, and learning. Based on this framework we propose to conceptualize anhedonia as impairments in some or all of these processes, thereby departing from the longstanding view of anhedonia as solely reduced subjective experience of pleasure. We discuss how deficits in each of the reward components can lead to different expressions, or subtypes, of anhedonia affording novel ways of measurement. Specifically, we review evidence suggesting that patients suffering from depression and schizophrenia show impairments in wanting and learning, while some aspects of conscious liking seem surprisingly intact. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that anhedonia is heterogeneous across psychiatric disorders, depending on which parts of the pleasure networks are most affected. This in turn has implications for diagnosis and treatment of anhedonia.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Source
    • "However, findings from studies directly comparing subjective pleasure responses in patients with MDD and healthy controls did not consistently find a significant difference between the two groups (Berlin et al., 1998; Dichter et al., 2010). Indeed, a recent meta-analysis of affective responses in patients with MDD found that reduced sensitivity to positive stimuli might reflect affective flattening, rather than a specific deficit in hedonic experience (Bylsma et al., 2008). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Anhedonia is a hallmark symptom of major depressive disorder (MDD). Preliminary findings suggest that anhedonia is characterized by reduced reward anticipation and motivation of obtaining reward. However, relatively little is known about reward-based decision-making in depression. We tested the hypothesis that anhedonia in MDD may reflect specific impairments in motivation on reward-based decision-making and the deficits might be associated with depressive symptoms severity. In study 1, individuals with and without depressive symptoms performed the modified version of the Effort Expenditure for Rewards Task (EEfRT), a behavioral measure of cost/benefit decision-making. In study 2, MDD patients, remitted MDD patients and healthy controls were recruited for the same procedures. We found evidence for decreased willingness to make effort for rewards among individuals with subsyndromal depression; the effect was amplified in MDD patients, but dissipated in patients with remitted depression. We also found that reduced anticipatory and consummatory pleasure predicted decreased willingness to expend efforts to obtain rewards in MDD patients. For individuals with subsyndromal depression, the impairments were correlated with anticipatory anhedonia but not consummatory anhedonia. These data offer novel evidence that motivational deficits in MDD are correlated with depression severity and predicted by self-reported anhedonia.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Psychiatry Research
  • Source
    • "Data were analyzed using the same standardized methods as previous studies involving the STT to allow for comparability across studies (Dichter et al., 2010; Garbutt et al., 2009; Kampov-Polevoy et al., 2006a; Kampov-Polevoy, Eick, Boland, Khalitov, & Crews, 2004; Kampov-Polevoy, Garbutt, & Khalitov, 2003; Kampov-Polevoy et al., 2006d). Consistent with these previous studies utilizing the STT, three dependent measures were derived: "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The Sweet Taste Test (STT) is a standardized measure designed to index the ability to detect differences in sweet tastes (sweet taste sensitivity) and hedonic responses to sweet tastes (sweet taste liking). Profiles of response on the STT suggest enhanced hedonic responses to sweet tastes in psychiatric disorders characterized by dysfunctional reward processing systems, including binge-eating disorders and substance use disorders, and a putative mechanism governing STT responses is the brain opioid system. The present study examined STT responses in 20 adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 38 healthy control adults. There were no differences in sweet taste sensitivity or hedonic response to sweet tastes between the ASD and control groups. Within the ASD sample, ASD symptom severity was associated with sweet taste sensitivity, but not hedonic response to sweet taste. Results may ultimately shed light on brain opioid system functioning in ASD.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014 · Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Show more