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Neural reward processing in individuals remitted from major depression

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

Psychol Med, 45, pp.3549-3558

Background: Dysfunctional behavioural and neural processing of reward has been found in currently depressed individuals. Yet, little is known about altered reward processing in remitted depressed individuals. Methods: Twenty-three medication-free individuals with remitted major depressive disorder (rMDD) and 23 matched healthy controls (HC) performed a reward task during functional magnetic resonance imaging. We also investigated individuals’ reward dependence, novelty seeking, and harm avoidance using the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire and their association with neural responses of reward processing. Results: Compared to HC, individuals with rMDD exhibited enhanced responses to reward- predicting cues in the hippocampus, amygdala and superior frontal gyrus. When reward was delivered, rMDD did not significantly differ from HC. In both groups neural activity during reward anticipation was associated with harm avoidance. Limitations: Never-depressed persons at high-risk for depression were not investigated. Information about former psychotropic drug intake before remission was not available. Conclusions: Results suggest that rMDD is characterised by hyperactivation in the hippocampus, amygdala and superior frontal gyrus during reward anticipation. These results suggest that altered reward processing might be a persisting vulnerability marker of MDD.

Contact: Dr. Frank Zöllner last modified: 21.05.2019
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