Objective. The current study will evaluate tasks examining tenets of reward devaluation theory and their ability to predict psychological distress and functioning over time among a sample of individuals with normal-to- abnormal symptoms of psychopathology. This application is significant and innovative and has great promise of experimental therapeutics translation. Background. Depression is the leading cause of disability for people aged 15 to 44, with high costs to public health. There is thus great need for research on underlying predictors that help better guide treatment interventions. Reward Devaluation Theory outlines experimental indicators of avoidance of positivity that represent disturbances of Positive Valence Systems, which are commonly abnormal among depressed persons. Reward Devaluation Theory may thus advance how positive valence systems disturbance is conceptualized and help predict treatment response in depression. Significance. Multiple sets of meta- analytic findings supporting reward devaluation theory indicate that individuals with depression avoid rewarding stimuli. This is a discriminant finding that is not present in anxious individuals and is not present when examining responses to negative stimuli. Innovation. Reward devaluation theory is thus a highly innovative framework for interpreting an endophenotypic predictor of positive valence systems disturbance indicated by depressive symptoms. Avoidance (i.e., devaluation, not just lack of valuation) of reward is an underinvestigated phenomenon that has been uncovered by the PI. Our research team has also uncovered evidence suggesting that separable cognitive/affective components of (1) reward devaluation and (2) anhedonia can be mapped over time via network analysis. This provides highly precise cognitive/affective pathways for future translation. Thus, these sets of findings support our novel theory derived from scientifically rigorous analyses.
Specific Aims. The aims of the proposed project are to further determine how reward devaluation and anhedonia pathways unfold over time, how they relate to distress and impairment, and how they are associated with novel cognitive and self- report constructs theoretically related to reward devaluation. Approach. A longitudinal study will examine reward devaluation and anhedonia in a sample with normal-to-abnormal depressive symptom profiles. Participants will be assessed weekly for six weeks. Multilevel linear and network modeling will be used for data analysis. Expected Results. Tasks that assess reward devaluation and anhedonia will predict symptoms of depression and impairment over time. Moreover, the reward devaluation and anhedonia pathways will be present in network models, with novel cognitive and self-report measures connecting to the reward devaluation circuit over time. Future Directions. Our ultimate goal is to use tasks indexing reward devaluation and anhedonia as part of novel assessment and treatment protocols that increase individuals? self-awareness and readiness to engage with potentially threatening positive information as part of an experimental therapeutics approach.

Public Health Relevance

The current research is relevant to public health because it investigates how well tasks associated with reward devaluation theory relate to depression over time. This research can produce assessments and interventions that help treat and prevent psychopathology and thus have positive public health implications.

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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Leitman, David I
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Mississippi State University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Mississippi State
United States
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Jordan, D Gage; Winer, E Samuel; Salem, Taban et al. (2018) Longitudinal evaluation of anhedonia as a mediator of fear of positive evaluation and other depressive symptoms. Cogn Emot 32:1437-1447
Salem, Taban; Winer, E Samuel; Nadorff, Michael R (2018) Combined behavioural markers of cognitive biases are associated with anhedonia. Cogn Emot 32:422-430
Winer, E Samuel; Bryant, Jessica; Bartoszek, Gregory et al. (2017) Mapping the relationship between anxiety, anhedonia, and depression. J Affect Disord 221:289-296
Winer, E Samuel; Salem, Taban (2016) Reward devaluation: Dot-probe meta-analytic evidence of avoidance of positive information in depressed persons. Psychol Bull 142:18-78