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Individual differences in trait anhedonia: a structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging study in non-clinical subjects

Abstract

Anhedonia, the reduced capacity to gain pleasure from pleasurable experiences, is a key symptom of major depression and schizophrenia. Reduced hedonic capacity can also be measured as an enduring trait in non-clinical subjects. Such altered hedonic capacity is likely the result of a basic neuropsychophysiological dysfunction and a vulnerability marker that potentially precedes and contributes to the liability of developing psychiatric disorders. The characterization of the structural and functional neural correlates of trait anhedonia in non-clinical individuals may provide new insights for the early detection of such psychiatric diseases. Twenty-nine non-clinical subjects were scanned at the Montreal Neurological Institute. Trait anhedonia was measured using the Chapman Revised Physical Anhedonia Scale. Semi-automated and automated structural MRI segmentation techniques were used to explore structural correlates of trait anhedonia. Seventeen of the 29 subjects also underwent a functional imaging task where responses to the viewing of affective stimuli were examined to identify the functional correlates of trait anhedonia. Trait anhedonia was inversely related to anterior caudate volume, but positively related to ventromedial prefrontal cortex activity during the processing of positive information. These findings may reflect a specific kind of vulnerability for the development of psychiatric affective disorders and suggest that trait anhedonia may be linked to a volumetric reduction in the basal ganglia and to a prefrontal functional abnormality during hedonic processing.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (grant #238617), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (grant #53280) and by a scholarship to POH from the Fond de la Recherche en Santé du Québec (FRSQ). We thank J Edwards, H Sutton, S Partridge, Dr J Armony and Dr A Malla for helpful suggestions and Dr S Dubal for providing some stimuli.

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Correspondence to M Lepage.

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Harvey, PO., Pruessner, J., Czechowska, Y. et al. Individual differences in trait anhedonia: a structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging study in non-clinical subjects. Mol Psychiatry 12, 767–775 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.mp.4002021

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.mp.4002021

Keywords

  • fMRI
  • voxel-based morphometry
  • hedonic capacity
  • major depression
  • schizophrenia
  • anhedonia

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