Changes in neural reward processing following Amplification of Positivity treatment for depression and anxiety: Preliminary findings from a randomized waitlist controlled trial

Behav Res Ther. 2021 Jul:142:103860. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2021.103860. Epub 2021 Apr 15.


Positive valence system (PVS) deficits are increasingly recognized as important treatment targets for depression and anxiety. Emerging behavioral treatments designed to upregulate the PVS show initial promise; however, neural mechanisms underlying these approaches remain unknown. This study investigated neural reward-processing-related changes following Amplification of Positivity (AMP)-a treatment designed to enhance positive thinking, emotions and behaviors through positive activity interventions ( NCT02330627). Individuals with depression and/or anxiety (N = 29) were randomized to 10 sessions of AMP (n = 16) or waitlist (WL; n = 13). Participants completed a monetary incentive delay task during fMRI at baseline and post-assessment. Hypothesis-driven region of interest (ventral striatum, insula, anterior cingulate) and exploratory whole-brain activation and connectivity analyses evaluated pre-to-post changes for AMP vs. WL when anticipating potential monetary gain or loss. No between-group brain activation changes emerged in regions of interest or whole-brain analyses. Increased neural connectivity from pre-to-post-treatment was observed in AMP vs. WL, including ventral striatum, anterior insula, and anterior cingulate connectivity with prefrontal, limbic, occipital and parietal regions-predominantly during loss anticipation. This preliminary study is the first to examine neural mechanisms of positive activity interventions in depression and anxiety and suggests that AMP may strengthen brain connectivity in reward processing, attention, and emotion regulation networks.

Keywords: Anxiety; Clinical trial; Depression; Positive affect; Reward processing; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anticipation, Psychological*
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Depression*
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Reward

Associated data