Dampening Positive Affect and Neural Reward Responding in Healthy Children: Implications for Affective Inflexibility

Kirsten Elizabeth Gilbert, Katherine Rose Luking, David Pagliaccio, Joan L. Luby, Deanna M. Barch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Blunted reward processing is evident in and may contribute to the onset of major depressive disorder. However, it is unclear what mechanisms contribute to the development of blunted reward-response prior to depression onset. The current study examined how individual differences in the tendency to dampen positive affect, an affect regulation strategy that decreases positive affect, are associated with reward responding and related brain activation in 39 healthy children (ages 7–10; 51% female; 79% White). To do this, we examined neural responses to winning a reward (candy) within the context of a previous loss, win, or neutral outcome. Whole-brain regression analyses revealed that self-reported tendencies to engage in dampening were associated with blunted striatum and thalamic activation during a winning outcome when following a previous loss outcome, as compared to when following a neutral outcome. This finding was above and beyond the influence of current depressive symptoms. However, tendencies to dampen positive affect were not associated with neural activity during the second of 2 consecutive win outcomes, and thus did not support the notion that dampening is associated with an inability to maintain reward responding. In youth, tendencies to dampen positive affect may be associated with less ability to flexibly upregulate neural reward responding following a loss, possibly leading to the development of affective inflexibility and increased vulnerability to depression. Dampening positive affect may be one mechanism that contributes to aberrant neural reward responding via affective inflexibility and may be a target for prevention in youth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-130
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019


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