Neural response to reward anticipation in those with depression with and without panic disorder

Stephanie M. Gorka, Ashley A. Huggins, Daniel A. Fitzgerald, Brady D. Nelson, K. Luan Phan, Stewart A Shankman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background One of the hallmark features of major depressive disorder (MDD) is reduced reward anticipation. There have been mixed findings in the literature as to whether reward anticipation deficits in MDD are related to diminished mesolimbic activation and/or enhanced dorsal anterior cingulate activation (dACC). One of the reasons for these mixed findings is that these studies have typically not addressed the role of comorbid anxiety, a class of disorders which frequently co-occur with depression and have a common neurobiology. Methods The aim of the current study was to examine group differences in neural responses to reward anticipation in 40 adults with either: (1) current MDD with no lifetime diagnosis of an anxiety disorder (MDD-only), (2) current MDD with comorbid panic disorder (MDD-PD), or (3) no lifetime diagnosis of psychopathology. All participants completed a passive slot machine task during a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan. Results Analyses indicated that there were no group differences in activation of mesolimbic reward regions; however, the MDD-only group exhibited greater dACC activation during the anticipation of rewards compared with the healthy controls and the comorbid MDD-PD group (who did not differ from each other). Limitations The sample size was small which limits generalizability. Conclusions These findings provide preliminary support for the role of hyperactive dACC functioning in reduced reward anticipation in MDD. They also indicate that comorbid anxiety may alter the association between MDD and neural responding to reward anticipation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-56
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Aug 1 2014


  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Reward anticipation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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