Parsing Anhedonia: Translational Models of Reward-Processing Deficits in Psychopathology

Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2013 Jun 1;22(3):244-249. doi: 10.1177/0963721412474460.


The term anhedonia has long been used in the psychiatric literature to describe reward-processing dysfunction in psychopathology, especially depression and schizophrenia. Although anhedonia literally describes a lack of pleasurable experiences in everyday life, recent advances in both the basic science and clinical literatures indicate that reward deficits in these disorders are much broader than hedonic responses. In this article, we summarize some of the recent theoretical and empirical advances in understanding deficits in reward processing and their neurobehavioral mechanisms, with a particular focus on the neural underpinnings of motivation and effort-based decision making. We also highlight the potential of translational neuroscience to enhance diagnostic clarity by defining clinical symptoms in terms of underlying pathophysiology.

Keywords: anhedonia; depression; dopamine; motivation; nosology; schizophrenia.