Temporal discounting in major depressive disorder.
Pulcu E., Trotter PD., Thomas EJ., McFarquhar M., Juhasz G., Sahakian BJ., Deakin JFW., Zahn R., Anderson IM., Elliott R.
BACKGROUND: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is associated with abnormalities in financial reward processing. Previous research suggests that patients with MDD show reduced sensitivity to frequency of financial rewards. However, there is a lack of conclusive evidence from studies investigating the evaluation of financial rewards over time, an important aspect of reward processing that influences the way people plan long-term investments. Beck's cognitive model posits that patients with MDD hold a negative view of the future that may influence the amount of resources patients are willing to invest into their future selves. METHOD: We administered a delay discounting task to 82 participants: 29 healthy controls, 29 unmedicated participants with fully remitted MDD (rMDD) and 24 participants with current MDD (11 on medication). RESULTS: Patients with current MDD, relative to remitted patients and healthy subjects, discounted large-sized future rewards at a significantly higher rate and were insensitive to changes in reward size from medium to large. There was a main effect of clinical group on discounting rates for large-sized rewards, and discounting rates for large-sized rewards correlated with severity of depressive symptoms, particularly hopelessness. CONCLUSIONS: Higher discounting of delayed rewards in MDD seems to be state dependent and may be a reflection of depressive symptoms, specifically hopelessness. Discounting distant rewards at a higher rate means that patients are more likely to choose immediate financial options. Such impairments related to long-term investment planning may be important for understanding value-based decision making in MDD, and contribute to ongoing functional impairment.