Social reward processing: A biomarker for predicting psychosis risk?

Andrea Pelletier-Baldelli*, Joseph M. Orr, Jessica A. Bernard, Vijay A. Mittal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The desire to obtain social rewards (e.g. positive feedback) features prominently in our lives and relationships, and is relevant to understanding psychopathology – where behavior is often impaired. Investigating social rewards within the psychosis-spectrum offers an especially useful opportunity, given the high rates of impaired social functioning and social isolation. The goal of this study was to investigate hedonic experience associated with social reward processing as a potential biomarker for psychosis risk. This study used a task-based functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm in adolescents at clinical high-risk for the development of psychosis (CHR, n = 19) and healthy unaffected peers (healthy controls – HC, n = 20). Regional activation and connectivity of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and ventral striatum were examined in response to receiving positive social feedback relative to an ambiguous feedback condition. Expectations of impaired hedonic processes in CHR youth were generally not supported, as there were no group differences in neural response or task-based connectivity. Although interesting relationships were found linking neural reward response and connectivity with social, anticipatory, and consummatory anhedonia in the CHR group, results are difficult to interpret in light of task limitations. We discuss potential implications for future study designs that seek to investigate social reward processing as a biomarker for psychosis risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-137
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia Research
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Anhedonia
  • Biomarker
  • Psychosis risk
  • Social reward
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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