Anhedonia And The Brain Reward Circuitry In Depression

However, to this date, the link between perceived control and anhedo-nia remains unclear. In order to further elucidate this relationship, this chapter provides a model that seeks to explain perceived control’s role in determining our psychological and behavioral responses to stress. To do so, we will discuss shared neurobiological mechanisms (i.e., the mesocorticolimbic system) in relation to how they pertains to perceived control and approach-avoidance motivation.

  • Reduced glucose metabolism in the subgenual prefrontal cortex in unipolar depression.
  • The focus on neurobiological markers of specific behaviors, rather than entire disorders, has led to significant advances in the understanding of anhedonia and related reward deficits in neuropsychiatric disorders.
  • Marcia Purse is a mental health writer and bipolar disorder advocate who brings strong research skills and personal experiences to her writing.
  • Social anhedonia is a dimension of both negative and positive schizotypy.
  • Dopamine is of particular interest due to its involvement in reward pathways as well as the fact that it is expressed in high quantities in the nucleus accumbens.

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and your general mood. Make a list of all of your symptoms before your appointment, including the loss of experiencing pleasure. Telling your doctor all of your symptoms will help them to see the full picture and make a diagnosis. The two main types of anhedonia are social and physical anhedonia.

As with the investigation of any emotional response, the story is not a simple one. The brain’s circuitry is dense, convoluted, and incredibly busy. To gain a better understanding of what anhedonia feels like, the following is an excerpt from a firsthand account. Most people will, at some point in their life, lose interest in things that used to excite them.

Indeed, in the case of schizophrenia, it has become apparent that reward deficits involve more than just anhedonia (reviewed in [25–27]). In some cases, the ability to experience pleasure may even remain intact. Rather, schizophrenia appears to be associated with inappropriate valuation of rewards, particularly when patients are required to generate and maintain internal representations of rewards not immediately available (reviewed in ). For example, schizophrenia patients heavily discount the value of future rewards compared to controls.


Anhedonia has also been used to refer to “affective blunting”, “restricted range of affect”, “emotional numbing”, and “flat affect”, particularly in the context of post-traumatic stress disorders. In PTSD patients, scales measuring these symptoms correlate strongly with scales that measure more traditional aspects of anhedonia, supporting this association. A patient with a resistant major depression disorder treated with deep brain stimulation in the inferior thalamic peduncle. Basal extracellular dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens are decreased during cocaine withdrawal after unlimited-access self-administration.

understanding anhedonia

It has yet to be determined what the exact relationship between social anhedonia and social anxiety is, and if one potentiates the other. Individuals with social anhedonia may display increased stress reactivity, meaning that they feel more overwhelmed or helpless in response to a stressful event compared to control subjects who experience the same type of stressor. This dysfunctional stress reactivity may correlate with hedonic capacity, providing a potential explanation for the increased anxiety symptoms experienced in people with social anhedonia. In an attempt to separate out social anhedonia from social anxiety, the Revised Social Anhedonia Scale didn’t include items that potentially targeted social anxiety. However, more research must be conducted on the underlying mechanisms through which social anhedonia overlaps and interacts with social anxiety. The efforts of the “social processes” RDoC initiative will be crucial in differentiating between these components of social behavior that may underlie mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Causes Of Anhedonia

The inability to feel pleasure can greatly impact the quality of your life. If you believe you’re experiencing depression and anhedonia, talk to your doctor. There is no standard anhedonia cure, but your doctor can help you create a treatment plan that works for you. A truly fulfilling life is possible – all you need are the right tools.

Enhancing this resiliency mechanism by stimulating dopamine cells or by increasing potassium channel currents promoted increased social interaction. The lateral habenula may also play an important role in reward processes given its reciprocal connections with the VTA and RN. LHb neurons inhibit dopaminergic and 5-HT cells in the VTA and RN, respectively (reviewed in ). Consequently, DBS of the LHb, purported to inhibit LHb activity and disinhibit dopamine and 5-HT activity, has been reported to have antidepressant effects, although it should be noted this is a single case study . Other regions have been implicated also, such as the insula and precuneus/medial parietal cortex, based on imaging studies of anhedonic individuals .

Barr AM, Phillips AG. Withdrawal following repeated exposure to d-amphetamine decreases responding for a sucrose solution as measured by a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement. Appetitive motivational deficits in individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. Rushworth MF, Behrens TE. Choice, uncertainty and value in prefrontal and cingulate cortex.