Unipolar depression has been characterized as involving diminished approach motivation and reward sensitivity. A psychophysiological indicator of approach motivation involves an asymmetry in frontal EEG activity, such that greater left relative to right frontal cortical activity indicates increased approach motivation. Consistent with the perspective of reduced approach motivation tendencies, depression has been associated with decreased relative left frontal cortical activity. To date, supporting research has primarily relied on categorical diagnoses or composite symptom counts. However, given the heterogeneity in depression, it is unclear what specific symptom dimensions relate to decreased relative left frontal cortical activity. The present study examined the association between multiple depression symptom dimensions and asymmetrical frontal cortical activity while anticipating reward in separate undergraduate (n = 75) and clinical samples (current major depressive disorder [n = 68] and never depressed controls [n = 67]). All participants completed the Inventory of Depression and Anxiety Symptoms, a self-report measure of factor-analytically derived symptom dimensions. Frontal cortical activity was assessed during a computerized slot machine task while participants anticipated potential monetary reward or no incentive. In undergraduates with low depression symptoms and never depressed controls, reward trials relative to no-incentive trials elicited greater relative left frontal cortical activity. Furthermore, in both samples across all participants, increased dysphoria and lassitude symptoms were associated with decreased relative left frontal cortical activity while anticipating reward. The present study suggests that depression symptoms consistent with motivational disengagement are associated with decreased relative left frontal cortical activity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry