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Behavioural activation is an efficient treatment for depression and can improve intrinsic motivation. Previous studies have revealed that the frontostriatal circuit is involved in intrinsic motivation; however, there are no data on how behavioural activation affects the frontostriatal circuit.
We aimed to investigate behavioural activation-related changes in the frontostriatal circuit.
Fifty-nine individuals with subthreshold depression were randomly assigned to either the intervention or non-intervention group. The intervention group received five weekly behavioural activation sessions. The participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning on two separate occasions while performing a stopwatch task based on intrinsic motivation. We investigated changes in neural activity and functional connectivity after behavioural activation.
After behavioural activation, the intervention group had increased activation and connectivity in the frontostriatal region compared with the non-intervention group. The increased activation in the right middle frontal gyrus was correlated with an improvement of subjective sensitivity to environmental rewards.
Behavioural activation-related changes to the frontostriatal circuit advance our understanding of psychotherapy-induced improvements in the neural basis of intrinsic motivation.
Declaration of interest
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