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Hyporeactivity of ventral striatum towards incentive stimuli in unmedicated depressed patients normalizes after treatment with escitalopram

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Stoy, M., Schlagenhauf, F., Sterzer, P., Bermpohl, F., Hägele, C., Suchotzki, K., et al. (2012). Hyporeactivity of ventral striatum towards incentive stimuli in unmedicated depressed patients normalizes after treatment with escitalopram. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 26(5), 677-688. doi:10.1177/0269881111416686.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0014-6B3F-5
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) involves deficits in the reward system. While neuroimaging studies have focused on affective stimulus processing, few investigations have directly addressed deficits in the anticipation of incentives. We examined neural responses during gain and loss anticipation in patients with MDD before and after treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Fifteen adults with MDD and 15 healthy participants, matched for age, verbal IQ and smoking habits, were investigated in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study using a monetary incentive delay task. Patients were scanned drug-free and after 6 weeks of open-label treatment with escitalopram; controls were scanned twice at corresponding time points. We compared the blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) response during the anticipation of gain and loss with a neutral condition. A repeated measures ANOVA was calculated to identify effects of group (MDD vs. controls), time (first vs. second scan) and group-by-time interaction. Severity of depression was measured with the Hamilton Rating Scale of Depression and the Beck Depression Inventory. MDD patients showed significantly less ventral striatal activation during anticipation of gain and loss compared with controls before, but not after, treatment. There was a significant group-by-time interaction during anticipation of loss in the left ventral striatum due to a signal increase in patients after treatment. Ventral striatal hyporesponsiveness was associated with the severity of depression and in particular anhedonic symptoms. These findings suggest that MDD patients show ventral striatal hyporesponsiveness during incentive cue processing, which normalizes after successful treatment.