Difference in Brain Mechanism in Children With Anhedonia

depressed child

Anxiety may devolve into depression through anhedonia, such that anxious individuals begin to lose pleasure in anxiety-provoking activities, which results in the development of other depressive symptoms. Anhedonia can be defined as the condition where people do not feel pleasure in things that are usually pleasurable, and it can be related to some mental disorders. Anxiety symptoms may develop into depression through persistent symptoms of anhedonia, such that individuals living with a wide range of mental health disorders, particularly anxiety begin to lose pleasure in anxiety-provoking activities, resulting in the development of other symptoms of depression.

Many researchers have showed a deviation in the brain activity between children with anhedonia and children without anhedonia. A recent study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry involving researchers at the national Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), gives more information on how the brain functions in children with anhedonia. This study also shows the differences between anhedonia and other parts of psychopathology. “ understanding the neural mechanism of anhedonia that are distinguishable from other psychiatric concerns is important for cliniciams to develop on-target treatments, yet  disentangling shared characteristics from unique neural mechanisms of anhedonia is challenging because of it often co-occurs with other psychistric conditions.” Said by Dr. Narun Pornpattananangkul.

The study which was carried out while the children were resting and while the children  have just finished a task successfully and expecting some kind of reward, it involved 2800 children within the age range of 9-10 years; some of the children involved in the study were known to have anxiety, anhedonia and low mood.

When carried out during rest, the result of the research showed significant difference in the children with anhedonia and children without anhedonia. Furthermore, when the brain activity was examined during a task, it the brain was found to be hyperactive in areas involving excitement as a result of the children expecting reward for the task, though this hyperactivity is not found in children with anxiety and low mood

The study proposes that children with anhedonia have contracts in the manner in which their brain reacts to reward and excitement, also how their brain initiates while awaiting rewards. Dr. Pornpatananangkul “ we found anhedonia specific alternations, such that youth with anhedonia, but not youth with low mood, anxiety, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), showed differences in the way they integrated reward and arousal and also showed diminished activity in reward-anticipation contexts, this finding may start to provide the specific neural targets for treating anhedonia in youth.”

The results of this research and converging lines of evidence shows the difference in the brain mechanism in children with anhedonia, it also suggests that anhedonia can be described as cognitive neural process. It is hoped that this finding can be used to explain the pathophysiology behind anhedonia in children.