Anhedonia in adolescents at transdiagnostic familial risk for severe mental illness: Clustering by symptoms and mechanisms of association with behavior

J Affect Disord. 2024 Feb 15:347:249-261. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2023.11.062. Epub 2023 Nov 21.


Background: Anhedonia is a transdiagnostic symptom of severe mental illness (SMI) and emerges during adolescence. Possible subphenotypes and neural mechanisms of anhedonia in adolescents at risk for SMI are understudied.

Methods: Adolescents at familial risk for SMI (N = 81) completed anhedonia (e.g., consummatory, anticipatory, social), demographic, and clinical measures and one year prior, a subsample (N = 46) completed fMRI scanning during a monetary reward task. Profiles were identified using k-means clustering of anhedonia type and differences in demographics, suicidal ideation, impulsivity, and emotional processes were examined. Moderation analyses were conducted to investigate whether levels of brain activation of reward regions moderated the relationships between anhedonia type and behaviors.

Results: Two-clusters emerged: a high anhedonia profile (high-anhedonia), characterized by high levels of all types of anhedonia, (N = 32) and a low anhedonia profile (low-anhedonia), characterized by low levels of anhedonia types (N = 49). Adolescents in the high-anhedonia profile reported more suicidal ideation and negative affect, and less positive affect and desire for emotional closeness than low-anhedonia profile. Furthermore, more suicidal ideation, less positive affect, and less desire for emotional closeness differentiated the familial high-risk, high-anhedonia profile adolescents from the familial high-risk, low-anhedonia profile adolescents. Across anhedonia profiles, moderation analyses revealed that adolescents with high dmPFC neural activation in response to reward had positive relationships between social, anticipatory, and consummatory anhedonia and suicidal ideation.

Limitations: Small subsample with fMRI data.

Conclusion: Profiles of anhedonia emerge transdiagnostically and vary on clinical features. Anhedonia severity and activation in frontostriatal reward areas have value for clinically important outcomes such as suicidal ideation.

Keywords: Anhedonia; Clusters; Reward; SMI; Severe mental illness; Transdiagnostic risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anhedonia* / physiology
  • Brain
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / diagnostic imaging