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A “Taste” of What is to Come: Reward Sensitivity as a Potential Endophenotype for Major Depressive Disorder

  • W. Kyle Simmons
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to Kyle Simmons, Ph.D., Laureate Institute for Brain Research, 6655 South Yale Ave, Tulsa, OK 74136-3326
    Affiliations
    Laureate Institute for Brain Research, Tulsa, Oklahoma

    Faculty of Community Medicine, The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma
    Search for articles by this author
  • Wayne C. Drevets
    Affiliations
    Laureate Institute for Brain Research, Tulsa, Oklahoma

    Department of Psychiatry, Oklahoma University School of Community Medicine, Tulsa, Oklahoma
    Search for articles by this author
      Nearly 40% of patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) experience a loss of interest and responsiveness to previously rewarding stimuli and activities, a condition referred to clinically as anhedonia (see [
      • Treadway M.T.
      • Zald D.H.
      Reconsidering anhedonia in depression: lessons from translational neuroscience.
      ] for review). Anhedonia is one of the most treatment-resistant aspects of depression (
      • Nutt D.
      • Demyttenaere K.
      • Janka Z.
      • Aarre T.
      • Bourin M.
      • Canonico P.L.
      • et al.
      The other face of depression, reduced positive affect: the role of catecholamines in causation and cure.
      ), and there is good reason to believe that the pathophysiology underlying this symptom complex may at least partly involve hypoactivity within the mesolimbic dopamine pathway and related brain structures (
      • Price J.L.
      • Drevets W.C.
      Neurocircuitry of mood disorders.
      ). One question that previously has remained relatively unexplored is whether the pathological reward–related hypoactivity within these brain regions is a state effect associated with a current depressive episode or is a predisposing and enduring trait of MDD? In this issue of Biological Psychiatry, McCabe et al. (
      • McCabe C.
      • Woffindale C.
      • Harmer C.J.
      • Cowen P.J.
      Neural processing of reward and punishment in young people at increased familial risk of depression.
      ) present the findings of a study aimed at addressing this important question.
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      Linked Article

      • Neural Processing of Reward and Punishment in Young People at Increased Familial Risk of Depression
        Biological PsychiatryVol. 72Issue 7
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          Abnormalities in the neural representation of rewarding and aversive stimuli have been well-described in patients with acute depression, and we previously found abnormal neural responses to rewarding and aversive sight and taste stimuli in recovered depressed patients. The aim of the present study was to determine whether similar abnormalities might be present in young people at increased familial risk of depression but with no personal history of mood disorder.
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