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

Sharee N. Light, Aaron S. Heller, Tom Johnstone, Gregory G. Kolden, Michael J. Peterson, Ned H. Kalin, Richard J. Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: 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 anhedonianamely, the downregulation of positive affectand its relation to prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity. Methods: 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. Results: Depressed individuals who could not inhibit positive emotionevinced by reduced right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activity during attempts to dampen their experience of positive emotion in response to positive visual stimuliexhibited 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. Conclusions: To reduce anhedonia, it may be necessary to teach individuals how to counteract the functioning of an overactive pleasure-dampening prefrontal inhibitory system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)962-968
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Volume70
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 15 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Anhedonia
  • cognitive control
  • major depressive disorder
  • positive emotion regulation
  • positive empathy
  • prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry

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