Uncovering the Neural Correlates of Anhedonia Subtypes in Major Depressive Disorder: Implications for Intervention Strategies

Biomedicines. 2023 Nov 24;11(12):3138. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines11123138.


Major depressive disorder (MDD) represents a serious public health concern, negatively affecting individuals' quality of life and making a substantial contribution to the global burden of disease. Anhedonia is a core symptom of MDD and is associated with poor treatment outcomes. Variability in anhedonia components within MDD has been observed, suggesting heterogeneity in psychopathology across subgroups. However, little is known about anhedonia subgroups in MDD and their underlying neural correlates across subgroups. To address this question, we employed a hierarchical cluster analysis based on Temporal Experience of Pleasure Scale subscales in 60 first-episode, drug-naive MDD patients and 32 healthy controls. Then we conducted a connectome-wide association study and whole-brain voxel-wise functional analyses for identified subgroups. There were three main findings: (1) three subgroups with different anhedonia profiles were identified using a data mining approach; (2) several parts of the reward network (especially pallidum and dorsal striatum) were associated with anticipatory and consummatory pleasure; (3) different patterns of within- and between-network connectivity contributed to the disparities of anhedonia profiles across three MDD subgroups. Here, we show that anhedonia in MDD is not uniform and can be categorized into distinct subgroups, and our research contributes to the understanding of neural underpinnings, offering potential treatment directions. This work emphasizes the need for tailored approaches in the complex landscape of MDD. The identification of homogeneous, stable, and neurobiologically valid MDD subtypes could significantly enhance our comprehension and management of this multifaceted condition.

Keywords: anhedonia; default mode network; fMRI; functional connectivity; intervention strategies; major depressive disorder; mental health; neuroimaging; reward network; subgroup.