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.
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Published online: August 26, 2011
Accepted: June 29, 2011
Received in revised form: June 28, 2011
Received: January 11, 2011
© 2011 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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- Regulation of Emotion in Major Depressive DisorderBiological PsychiatryVol. 70Issue 10
- PreviewThe 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.