Background: Both clinical and preclinical studies revealed that regular intake of green tea reduced the prevalence of depressive symptoms, as well as produced antidepressant-like effects in rodents. Evidence proposed that disturbed reward learning has been associated with the development of anhedonia, a core symptom of depression. However, the relationship between green tea and reward learning is poorly investigated. Our goal was to test whether chronic treatment with green tea in healthy subjects affects the process of reward learning and subsequently regulates the depressive symptoms.
Methods: Seventy-four healthy subjects participated in a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study with oral administration of green tea or placebo for 5weeks. We used the monetary incentive delay task to evaluate the reward learning by measurement of the response to reward trial or no-reward trial. We compared the reaction time of reward responsiveness between green tea and placebo treatment. Furthermore, we selected Montgomery-Asberg depression rating scale (MADRS) and 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD-17) to estimate the depressive symptoms in these two groups.
Results: The results showed chronic treatment of green tea increased reward learning compared with placebo by decreasing the reaction time in monetary incentive delay task. Moreover, participants treated with green tea showed reduced scores measured in MADRS and HRSD-17 compared with participants treated with placebo.
Conclusions: Our findings reveal that chronic green tea increased the reward learning and prevented the depressive symptoms. These results also raised the possibility that supplementary administration of green tea might reverse the development of depression through normalization of the reward function.