Pavlovian reward prediction and receipt in schizophrenia: Relationship to anhedonia

Erin C. Dowd, Deanna M. Barch

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116 Scopus citations


Reward processing abnormalities have been implicated in the pathophysiology of negative symptoms such as anhedonia and avolition in schizophrenia. However, studies examining neural responses to reward anticipation and receipt have largely relied on instrumental tasks, which may confound reward processing abnormalities with deficits in response selection and execution. 25 chronic, medicated outpatients with schizophrenia and 20 healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging using a Pavlovian reward prediction paradigm with no response requirements. Subjects passively viewed cues that predicted subsequent receipt of monetary reward or non-reward, and blood-oxygen-level-dependent signal was measured at the time of cue presentation and receipt. At the group level, neural responses to both reward anticipation and receipt were largely similar between groups. At the time of cue presentation, striatal anticipatory responses did not differ between patients and controls. Right anterior insula demonstrated greater activation for nonreward than reward cues in controls, and for reward than nonreward cues in patients. At the time of receipt, robust responses to receipt of reward vs. nonreward were seen in striatum, midbrain, and frontal cortex in both groups. Furthermore, both groups demonstrated responses to unexpected versus expected outcomes in cortical areas including bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Individual difference analyses in patients revealed an association between physical anhedonia and activity in ventral striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex during anticipation of reward, in which greater anhedonia severity was associated with reduced activation to money versus no-money cues. In ventromedial prefrontal cortex, this relationship held among both controls and patients, suggesting a relationship between anticipatory activity and anhedonia irrespective of diagnosis. These findings suggest that in the absence of response requirements, brain responses to reward receipt are largely intact in medicated individuals with chronic schizophrenia, while reward anticipation responses in left ventral striatum are reduced in those patients with greater anhedonia severity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere35622
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 4 2012


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