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Altered neural reward and loss processing and prediction error signalling in depression

B. Ubl, C. Kuehner, P. Kirsch, M. Ruttorf, H. Flor and C. Diener

Soc Cogn Affect Neur, 10 (8), pp.1102-1112

Dysfunctional processing of reward and punishment may play an important role in depression. However, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have shown heterogeneous results for reward processing in fronto-striatal regions. We examined neural responsivity associated with the processing of reward and loss during anticipation and receipt of incentives and related prediction error (PE) signalling in depressed individuals. Thirty medication-free depressed persons and 28 healthy controls performed an fMRI reward paradigm. Regions of interest analyses focused on neural responses during anticipation and receipt of gains and losses and related PE-signals. Additionally, we assessed the relationship between neural responsivity during gain/loss processing and hedonic capacity. Compared to healthy controls, depressed individuals showed reduced fronto-striatal activity during anticipation of gains and losses. The groups did not significantly differ in response to reward and loss outcomes. In depressed individuals, activity increases in the orbitofrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens during reward anticipation were associated with hedonic capacity. Depressed individuals showed an absence of reward-related PEs but encoded loss-related PEs in the ventral striatum. Depression seems to be linked to blunted responsivity in fronto-striatal regions associated with limited motivational responses for rewards and losses. Alterations in PE encoding might mirror blunted reward- and enhanced loss-related associative learning in depression.

Contact: Dr. Frank Zöllner last modified: 20.03.2019
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