Fatigue, depression, and pain in multiple sclerosis: How neuroinflammation translates into dysfunctional reward processing and anhedonic symptoms

Mult Scler. 2020 Nov 12;1352458520972279. doi: 10.1177/1352458520972279. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Fatigue, depression, and pain affect the majority of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, which causes a substantial burden to patients and society. The pathophysiology of these symptoms is not entirely clear, and current treatments are only partially effective. Clinically, these symptoms share signs of anhedonia, such as reduced motivation and a lack of positive affect. In the brain, they are associated with overlapping structural and functional alterations in areas involved in reward processing. Moreover, neuroinflammation has been shown to directly impede monoaminergic neurotransmission that plays a key role in reward processing. Here, we review recent neuroimaging and neuroimmunological findings, which indicate that dysfunctional reward processing might represent a shared functional mechanism fostering the symptom cluster of fatigue, depression, and pain in MS. We propose a framework that integrates these findings with a focus on monoaminergic neurotransmission and discuss its therapeutic implications, limitations, and perspectives.

Keywords: Reward; anhedonia; cytokines; depression; fatigue; pain.