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Anhedonia is a core symptom of depression that predicts worse treatment outcomes. Dysfunction in neural reward circuits is thought to contribute to anhedonia. However, whether laboratory-based assessments of anhedonia and reward-related neural function translate to adolescents' subjective affective experiences in real-world contexts remains unclear.
We recruited a sample of adolescents (n = 82; ages 12–18; mean = 15.83) who varied in anhedonia and measured the relationships among clinician-rated and self-reported anhedonia, behaviorally assessed reward learning ability, neural response to monetary reward and loss (as assessed with functional magnetic resonance imaging), and repeated ecological momentary assessment (EMA) of positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA) in daily life.
Anhedonia was associated with lower mean PA and higher mean NA across the 5-day EMA period. Anhedonia was not related to impaired behavioral reward learning, but low PA was associated with reduced nucleus accumbens response during reward anticipation and reduced medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) response during reward outcome. Greater mean NA was associated with increased mPFC response to loss outcome.
Traditional laboratory-based measures of anhedonia were associated with lower subjective PA and higher subjective NA in youths' daily lives. Lower subjective PA and higher subjective NA were associated with decreased reward-related striatal functioning. Higher NA was also related to increased mPFC activity to loss. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that laboratory-based measures of anhedonia translate to real-world contexts and that subjective ratings of PA and NA may be associated with neural response to reward and loss.
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