Archival Report| Volume 70, ISSUE 10, P962-968, November 15, 2011

Download started.


Reduced Right Ventrolateral Prefrontal Cortex Activity While Inhibiting Positive Affect Is Associated with Improvement in Hedonic Capacity After 8 Weeks of Antidepressant Treatment in Major Depressive Disorder


      Anhedonia, a reduced ability to experience pleasure, is a chief symptom of major depressive disorder and is related to reduced frontostriatal connectivity when attempting to upregulate positive emotion. The present study examined another facet of positive emotion regulation associated with anhedonia—namely, the downregulation of positive affect—and its relation to prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity.


      Neuroimaging data were collected from 27 individuals meeting criteria for major depressive disorder as they attempted to suppress positive emotion during a positive emotion regulation task. Their PFC activation pattern was compared with the PFC activation pattern exhibited by 19 healthy control subjects during the same task. Anhedonia scores were collected at three time points: at baseline (time 1), 8 weeks after time 1 (i.e., time 2), and 6 months after time 1 (i.e., time 3). Prefrontal cortex activity at time 1 was used to predict change in anhedonia over time. Analyses were conducted utilizing hierarchical linear modeling software.


      Depressed individuals who could not inhibit positive emotion—evinced by reduced right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activity during attempts to dampen their experience of positive emotion in response to positive visual stimuli—exhibited a steeper anhedonia reduction slope between baseline and 8 weeks of treatment with antidepressant medication (p < .05). Control subjects showed a similar trend between baseline and time 3.


      To reduce anhedonia, it may be necessary to teach individuals how to counteract the functioning of an overactive pleasure-dampening prefrontal inhibitory system.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Biological Psychiatry
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Heller A.S.
        • Johnstone T.
        • Shackman A.J.
        • Light S.
        • Peterson M.
        • Kolden G.
        • et al.
        Reduced capacity to sustain positive emotion in major depression reflects diminished maintenance of fronto-striatal brain activation.
        Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009; 106: 22445-22450
        • Johnstone T.
        • van Reekum C.M.
        • Urry H.L.
        • Kalin N.H.
        • Davidson R.J.
        Failure to regulate: Counter-productive recruitment of top-down prefrontal-subcortical circuitry in major depression.
        J Neurosci. 2007; 27: 8877-8884
        • Wager T.D.
        • Sylvester C.Y.
        • Lacey S.C.
        • Nee D.E.
        • Franklin M.
        • Jonides J.
        Common and unique components of response inhibition revealed by fMRI.
        Neuroimage. 2005; 27: 323-340
        • Keedwell P.A.
        • Andrew C.
        • Williams S.C.
        • Brammer M.J.
        • Phillips M.L.
        The neural correlates of anhedonia in major depressive disorder.
        Biol Psychiatry. 2005; 58: 843-853
        • Kumari V.
        • Mitterschiffthaler M.T.
        • Teasdale J.D.
        • Malhi G.S.
        • Brown R.G.
        • Giampietro V.
        • et al.
        Neural abnormalities during cognitive generation of affect in treatment-resistant depression.
        Biol Psychiatry. 2003; 54: 777-791
        • Bryant F.B.
        A four-factor model of perceived control: Avoiding, coping, obtaining, and savoring.
        J Pers. 1989; 57: 773-797
        • Wood J.V.
        • Heimpel S.A.
        • Michela J.L.
        Savoring versus dampening: Self-esteem differences in regulating positive affect.
        J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003; 85: 566-580
        • Parrott G.W.
        Beyond hedonism: Motives for inhibiting good moods and for maintaining bad moods.
        in: Wegner D.M. Pennebaker J.W. Handbook of Mental Control. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ1993: 278-305
        • Watson D.
        • Weber K.
        • Assenheimer J.S.
        • Clark L.A.
        • Strauss M.E.
        • McCormick R.A.
        Testing a tripartite model: I.
        J Abnorm Psychol. 1995; 104: 3-14
        • Watson D.
        • Clark L.A.
        • Weber K.
        • Assenheimer J.S.
        • Strauss M.E.
        • McCormick R.A.
        Testing a tripartite model: II.
        J Abnorm Psychol. 1995; 104: 15-25
        • Hamilton M.
        A rating scale for depression.
        J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1960; 23: 56-62
        • Lang P.I.
        • Bradley M.M.
        • Cuthbert B.N.
        International Affective Picture System (IAPS): Affective Ratings of Pictures and Instruction Manual.
        University of Florida, Gainesville, FL2005
        • Jackson D.C.
        • Malmstadt J.R.
        • Larson C.L.
        • Davidson R.J.
        Suppression and enhancement of emotional responses to unpleasant pictures.
        Psychophysiology. 2000; 37: 515-522
        • Urry H.L.
        • van Reekum C.M.
        • Johnstone T.
        • Kalin N.H.
        • Thurow M.E.
        • Schaefer H.S.
        • et al.
        Amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex are inversely coupled during regulation of negative affect and predict the diurnal pattern of cortisol secretion among older adults.
        J Neurosci. 2006; 26: 4415-4425
        • Cox R.W.
        AFNI: Software for analysis and visualization of functional magnetic resonance neuroimages.
        Comput Biomed Res. 1996; 29: 162-173
        • Johnstone T.
        • Ores Walsh K.S.
        • Greischar L.L.
        • Alexander A.L.
        • Fox A.S.
        • Davidson R.J.
        • Oakes T.R.
        Motion correction and the use of motion covariates in multiple-subject fMRI analysis.
        Hum Brain Mapp. 2006; 27: 779-788
        • Jenkinson M.
        • Bannister P.
        • Brady M.
        • Smith S.
        Improved optimization for the robust and accurate linear registration and motion correction of brain images.
        Neuroimage. 2002; 17: 825-841
        • Raudenbush S.W.
        • Bryk A.S.
        • Cheong Y.F.
        • Congdon R.T.
        HLM 6: Hierarchical Linear and Non-linear Modeling.
        Scientific Software International, Lincolnwood, IL2004
        • Light S.N.
        • Goldsmith H.H.
        • Coan J.A.
        • Frye C.
        • Davidson R.J.
        Dynamic variation in pleasure in children predicts non-linear change in lateral frontal activity.
        Dev Psychol. 2009; 45: 525-533
        • Light S.N.
        • Coan J.A.
        • Zahn-Waxler C.
        • Frye C.
        • Goldsmith H.H.
        • Davidson R.J.
        Empathy is associated with dynamic change in prefrontal brain electrical activity during positive emotion in children.
        Child Dev. 2009; 80: 1210-1231
        • Snijders T.
        • Bosker R.
        Multilevel Analysis: An Introduction to Basic and Advanced Multilevel Modeling.
        Sage Publications, London1999
        • Seligman M.E.
        • Steen T.A.
        • Park N.
        • Peterson C.
        Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions.
        Am Psychol. 2005; 60: 410-421
        • Salzberg S.
        Loving-kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness.
        Shambhala, Boston1997

      Linked Article

      • Regulation of Emotion in Major Depressive Disorder
        Biological PsychiatryVol. 70Issue 10
        • Preview
          The ability to regulate emotion is central to everyday functioning and has been studied extensively in healthy adults in the last two decades. One conclusion supported by this research is that various cognitive strategies can be used to effectively regulate both positive and negative emotion (which is consistent with a wealth of clinical work on the efficacy of cognitive therapy). More recently, basic neuroimaging work using now-well-established experimental paradigms has increased our understanding of the neural systems involved in the cognitive regulation of emotion.
        • Full-Text
        • PDF