Reconceptualizing anhedonia: novel perspectives on balancing the pleasure networks in the human brain.
Rømer Thomsen K., Whybrow PC., Kringelbach ML.
Anhedonia, the lack of pleasure, has been shown to be a critical feature of a range of psychiatric disorders. Yet, it is currently measured primarily through subjective self-reports and as such has been difficult to submit to rigorous scientific analysis. New insights from affective neuroscience hold considerable promise in improving our understanding of anhedonia and for providing useful objective behavioral measures to complement traditional self-report measures, potentially leading to better diagnoses and novel treatments. Here, we review the state-of-the-art of hedonia research and specifically the established mechanisms of wanting, liking, and learning. Based on this framework we propose to conceptualize anhedonia as impairments in some or all of these processes, thereby departing from the longstanding view of anhedonia as solely reduced subjective experience of pleasure. We discuss how deficits in each of the reward components can lead to different expressions, or subtypes, of anhedonia affording novel ways of measurement. Specifically, we review evidence suggesting that patients suffering from depression and schizophrenia show impairments in wanting and learning, while some aspects of conscious liking seem surprisingly intact. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that anhedonia is heterogeneous across psychiatric disorders, depending on which parts of the pleasure networks are most affected. This in turn has implications for diagnosis and treatment of anhedonia.