Pleasures of the brain: Investigating anhedonia with whole-brain computational connectomics

Tuesday, 2016, November 15 - 11:30
Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, University of Oxford, United Kingdom Department of Clinical Medicine - Center for Music In the Brain, Aarhus University, Denmark


Anhedonia, the lack of pleasure, has been shown to be a critical feature of a range of neuropsychiatric disorders including MDD. Yet, it is currently measured primarily through subjective self-reports and as such has been difficult to submit to rigorous scientific analysis. New insights from affective neuroscience hold considerable promise in improving our understanding of anhedonia and for providing useful objective behavioral measures to complement traditional self-report measures, potentially leading to better diagnoses and novel treatments. Reviewing the state-of-the-art of hedonia research and specifically the established mechanisms of wanting, liking, and learning, I propose to conceptualize anhedonia as impairments in some or all of these processes; thereby departing from the longstanding view of anhedonia as solely reduced subjective experience of pleasure. I will discuss how deficits in each of the reward components can lead to different expressions, or subtypes, of anhedonia affording novel ways of measurement. Specifically, I will review evidence suggesting that patients suffering from depression and schizophrenia show impairments in wanting and learning, while some aspects of conscious liking seem surprisingly intact. Advances in whole-brain computational modelling can help stratify the heterogeneity of anhedonia across neuropsychiatric disorders, depending on which parts of the pleasure networks are most affected. This in turn has implications for diagnosis and treatment of anhedonia.