Mapping anhedonia-specific dysfunction in a transdiagnostic approach: an ALE meta-analysis

Brain Imaging Behav. 2016 Sep;10(3):920-39. doi: 10.1007/s11682-015-9457-6.


Anhedonia is a prominent symptom in neuropsychiatric disorders, most markedly in major depressive disorder (MDD) and schizophrenia (SZ). Emerging evidence indicates an overlap in the neural substrates of anhedonia between MDD and SZ, which supported a transdiagnostic approach. Therefore, we used activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies in MDD and SZ to examine the neural bases of three subdomains of anhedonia: consummatory anhedonia, anticipatory anhedonia and emotional processing. ALE analysis focused specifically on MDD or SZ was used later to dissociate specific anhedonia-related neurobiological impairments from potential disease general impairments. ALE results revealed that consummatory anhedonia was associated with decreased activation in ventral basal ganglia areas, while anticipatory anhedonia was associated with more substrates in frontal-striatal networks except the ventral striatum, which included the dorsal anterior cingulate, middle frontal gyrus and medial frontal gyrus. MDD and SZ patients showed similar neurobiological impairments in anticipatory and consummatory anhedonia, but differences in the emotional experience task, which may also involve affective/mood general processing. These results support that anhedonia is characterized by alterations in reward processing and relies on frontal-striatal brain circuitry. The transdiagnostic approach is a promising way to reveal the overall neurobiological framework that contributes to anhedonia and could help to improve targeted treatment strategies.

Keywords: Activation likelihood estimation (ALE); Anhedonia; Major depressive disorder; Meta-analysis; Schizophrenia; Transdiagnostic.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anhedonia / physiology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnostic imaging
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Humans
  • Schizophrenia / diagnostic imaging
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology