Anhedonia and Emotional Numbing in Treatment-seeking Veterans : Behavioural and Electrophysiological Responses to Reward


This paper provides an overview of a trial to determine whether there is an associations between anhedonia, PTSD symptom-clusters and behavioural and electrophysiological responses to reward.


ABSTRACT Background: Anhedonia is a common symptom following exposure to traumatic stress and a feature of the PTSD diagnosis. In depression research, anhedonia has been linked to deficits in reward functioning, reflected in behavioural and neural responses. Such deficits following exposure to trauma, however, are not well understood. Objective: The current study aims to estimate the associations between anhedonia, PTSD symptom-clusters and behavioural and electrophysiological responses to reward. Methods: Participants (N = 61) were recruited among Danish treatment-seeking veterans at the Department of Military Psychology in the Danish Defence. Before entering treatment, participants were screened with symptom measurement instruments and participated in a joint behavioural-electrophysiological experiment. The experimental paradigm consisted of a signal-detection task aimed at assessing reward-driven learning. Simultaneous electrophysiological-recordings were analysed to evaluate neural responses upon receiving reward, as indicated by the Feedback-Related Negativity (FRN) component. Result: Anhedonia as conceptualized in depression correlated with behavioural learning (r = -0.28, p = .032). Neither anhedonia nor behavioural learning correlated with FRN. However, the anhedonia symptom cluster of PTSD did correlate with FRN (r = 0.29, p = .023). Extending upon this in an exploratory analysis, the specific PTSD-symptom emotional numbing was found to correlate moderately with FRN (r = 0.38, p = .003). Conclusion: The present data suggest that anhedonia in trauma-exposed individuals is related to the anticipatory aspect of reward, whereas the neural consummatory reward response seems unlinked. Interestingly, emotional numbing in the same population is related to the consummatory phase of reward, correlating with the FRN response. This suggests that anhedonia and emotional numbing in response to trauma might pertain to different phases of reward processing.

Full Reference

Eskelund, Kasper ; Karstoft, Karen-Inge ; Andersen, Soren B. (2018). Anhedonia and emotional numbing in treatment-seeking veterans : behavioural and electrophysiological responses to reward. European Journal of Psychotraumatology. Vol: 9 (1), np.