Anhedonia modulates the effects of positive mood induction on reward-related brain activation

Isobel W. Green, Diego A. Pizzagalli, Roee Admon, Poornima Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Blunted activation in the reward circuitry has been associated with anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure in previously rewarding activities. In healthy individuals, reward-related activation has been found to be modulated by acute contextual factors such as induced positive mood. Accordingly, blunted reward response in anhedonia might involve a failure to appropriately modulate reward-related activation as a function of context. To test this hypothesis, 29 participants (19 females, mean age of 24.14 ± 4.61, age range 18–34), with a wide range of anhedonic symptoms, underwent functional MRI while anticipating and receiving monetary rewards, before and after a positive mood induction. Change in neural activation from before to after mood induction was quantified, and effects of anhedonia were investigated through whole-brain, ROI, and functional connectivity analyses. Contrary to hypotheses, results indicated that during reward anticipation (but not receipt), nucleus accumbens activation decreased while its connectivity with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex increased, following positive mood induction. Critically, anhedonia modulated both effects. The unexpected finding of decreased activation to reward cues following positive mood induction is compelling as it aligns with a prominent behavioral model of the effect of positive mood on exploration of rewarding and neutral stimuli. Furthermore, the modulation of this effect by anhedonia suggests that it may be a key process altered in anhedonia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-125
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was partially supported by the Harvard College Research Program , the Herchel Smith Undergraduate Science Research Program and the Harvard College Program for Research in Science and Engineering (awarded to IWG) . DAP was partially supported by R37 MH068376 and R01 MH101521 . PK was partially supported by R21 MH105775 and a Brain and Behavior Foundation (formerly NARSAD) Young Investigator award . We thank Mr. Robert T. Mankoff, chief editor, the New Yorker Caption Contest, for providing all the captions and cartoons that were used in the task, as well as for his fruitful thoughts throughout the construction of the task. Data for this study were collected at the Harvard Center for Brain Science. This work involved the use of instrumentation supported by the NIH Shared Instrumentation Grant Program; specifically, grant number S10OD020039 . The SMS-BOLD sequence was developed at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) at the University of Minnesota. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The authors would like to thank Caroline West, Dr. Stephanie McMains, Dr. Ross Mair, and Tammy Moran from the Center for Brain Science for their expertise and support throughout the project; Dr. Leah Somerville for critical commentary and review; and the members of the Pizzagalli lab for their scientific insight and personal encouragement.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019


  • Anhedonia
  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
  • Monetary incentive delay
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Positive mood induction
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Anhedonia modulates the effects of positive mood induction on reward-related brain activation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this