Background: Of the putative psychopathological endophenotypes in major depressive disorder (MDD), the anhedonic subtype is particularly well supported. Anhedonia is generally assumed to reflect aberrant motivation and reward responsivity. However, research has been limited by a lack of objective measures of reward motivation. We present the Effort-Expenditure for Rewards Task (EEfRT or "effort"), a novel behavioral paradigm as a means of exploring effort-based decision-making in humans. Using the EEfRT, we test the hypothesis that effort-based decision-making is related to trait anhedonia.
Methods/results: 61 undergraduate students participated in the experiment. Subjects completed self-report measures of mood and trait anhedonia, and completed the EEfRT. Across multiple analyses, we found a significant inverse relationship between anhedonia and willingness to expend effort for rewards.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that anhedonia is specifically associated with decreased motivation for rewards, and provide initial validation for the EEfRT as a laboratory-based behavioral measure of reward motivation and effort-based decision-making in humans.