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Characterizing anhedonia: A systematic review of neuroimaging across the subtypes of reward processing deficits in depression

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Alessandra Borsini, Amelia St John Wallis, Patricia Zunszain, Carmine Maria Pariante, Matthew J. Kempton

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)816-841
Number of pages26
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number4
Published1 Aug 2020

King's Authors


Anhedonia is a key symptom of major depressive disorder (MDD) and comprises behavioural deficits in three reward processing subtypes: reward liking, reward wanting, and reward learning. However, neuroimaging findings regarding the neural abnormalities underpinning these deficits are complex. We have conducted a systematic review to update, reframe and summarize neuroimaging findings across the three subtypes of anhedonia in MDD. Using PubMed, The Cochrane Library, PsycINFO, and Web of Science databases, we identified 59 fMRI studies comparing participants with current or remitted MDD with controls, using reward processing tasks. For reward liking and wanting, striatal hypoactivation was observed, alongside hypoactivation and hyperactivation across frontal regions. For reward learning, blunted frontostriatal sensitivity to positive feedback was observed. These findings highlight the importance of studying anhedonia not only as a clinical manifestation but also as a neurobiological mechanism underlying depressive disorder and other broader psychiatric conditions.

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