Anhedonia-diminished pleasure from normally rewarding activities-is a cardinal feature of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and other disorders involving the broader RDoC Positive Valence Systems domain. Recent research has emphasized how motivational factors, such as the processing and weighting of rewards and incentives, underlie depressive anhedonia. A problem, however, is that most studies use single-shot tasks that hold critical factors constant or combine distinct factors. This AREA R15 translates motivational intensity theory-a successful basic-science theory of biobehavioral effort regulation-to illuminate depressive anhedonia. Because of its extensive empirical support and established research paradigms, motivational intensity theory enables researchers to "diagnose" whether MDD's motivational deficits are rooted in (1) diminished incentive value (finding goals less rewarding), (2) higher perceptions of task difficulty (seeing tasks as too hard, or (3) both. The proposed research will recruit a sample of 50 community adults: half will meet DSM-V criteria for primary MDD, and half will be healthy matched controls. Participants will first complete laboratory tasks that isolate and manipulate key factors (incentive value, task difficulty) and measure effort engagement using cardiac autonomic activity, particularly sympathetic nervous system activity, by means of impedance cardiography. Participants will then take part in an innovative one-day ecological momentary assessment that combines traditional self-reported experience sampling with ambulatory impedance cardiography. This day-long assessment will offer the first look at cardiac markers of effort engagement in the daily lives of people with MDD as they engage with their everyday goals and challenges, and it will allow an evaluation of the generality of cardiac autonomic effort deficits from the lab to daily lie. The project thus introduces several significant innovations: (1) it translates a prominent theory o effort to illuminate the motivational substrates of anhedonia in MDD, using incisive biological measures;(2) it combines ambulatory impedance cardiography, a cutting-edge method, and traditional experience sampling to characterize MDD's motivational deficits in daily life;and (3) t evaluates the generality of MDD's motivational deficits across laboratory and everyday contexts. Finally, as an R15 AREA proposal, this research offers a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to get involved in translational clinical research that applies innovative biological methods to a profound public health problem.

Public Health Relevance

Depression is a major public health concern: it is a leading cause of morbidity and disability in industrialized nations and a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease. The proposed research examines how anhedonia-a cardinal feature of depression-influences the activity of the heart when people are faced with important goals and challenges. The research will clarify the motivational mechanisms that underlie depressive anhedonia, characterize the patterns of cardiac autonomic activity associated with depressive effort deficits, and provide the first look at how depression affects cardiac autonomic activity in people's daily environments.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA) (R15)
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Adult Psychopathology and Disorders of Aging Study Section (APDA)
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Muehrer, Peter R
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University of North Carolina Greensboro
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Silvia, Paul J; Jackson, Bryonna A; Sopko, Rachel S (2014) Does Baseline Heart Rate Variability Reflect Stable Positive Emotionality? Pers Individ Dif 70:183-187
Silvia, Paul J; Kwapil, Thomas R; Walsh, Molly A et al. (2014) Planned missing-data designs in experience-sampling research: Monte Carlo simulations of efficient designs for assessing within-person constructs. Behav Res Methods 46:41-54
Silvia, Paul J; Nusbaum, Emily C; Eddington, Kari M et al. (2014) Effort Deficits and Depression: The Influence of Anhedonic Depressive Symptoms on Cardiac Autonomic Activity During a Mental Challenge. Motiv Emot 38:779-789
Silvia, Paul J; Kelly, Casey S; Zibaie, Alireza et al. (2013) Trait self-focused attention increases sensitivity to nonconscious primes: evidence from effort-related cardiovascular reactivity. Int J Psychophysiol 88:143-8
Silvia, Paul J (2012) Mirrors, masks, and motivation: implicit and explicit self-focused attention influence effort-related cardiovascular reactivity. Biol Psychol 90:192-201
Silvia, Paul J; Jones, Hannah C; Kelly, Casey S et al. (2011) Trait self-focused attention, task difficulty, and effort-related cardiovascular reactivity. Int J Psychophysiol 79:335-40
Silvia, Paul J; Jones, Hannah C; Kelly, Casey S et al. (2011) Masked first name priming increases effort-related cardiovascular reactivity. Int J Psychophysiol 80:210-6