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Table of Contents
Vol. 65, No. 1, 2012
Issue release date: December 2011
Section title: Original Paper
Free Access
Neuropsychobiology 2012;65:45–54

Perception of a Naturalistic Stressor Interacts with 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 Genotype and Gender to Impact Reward Responsiveness

Nikolova Y.a · Bogdan R.a · Pizzagalli D.A.a, b
aAffective Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., and bCenter for Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research and Neuroimaging Center, McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Belmont, Mass., USA
email Corresponding Author

Diego A. Pizzagalli

Center for Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research

Room 233C, McLean Hospital

115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478 (USA)

Tel. +1 617 855 4230, E-Mail dap@mclean.harvard.edu

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Background: Stressful life experiences frequently precede the onset of major depression; however, the mechanisms that underlie this link are poorly understood. Importantly, some individuals are more susceptible to the depressogenic effects of stress than others. Carriers of the S or LG allele of the 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 polymorphisms (S’ participants) have been found to be more prone to developing depression under stress relative to L or LA homozygotes (L’ participants). Moreover, emerging evidence indicates that stress-induced anhedonia may be a mechanism underlying links between stress and depression. Given these findings, we hypothesized that exposure to a naturalistic stressor (school final examinations) would disrupt reward responsiveness (a key behavioral component of anhedonia), and that this effect would be strongest in S’ participants. Methods: To objectively assess reward responsiveness, we administered a probabilistic reward task to 70 Bulgarian high school students over two sessions in the 6-month period preceding school finals. For each participant, the two sessions were designated as the ‘stress’ and ‘control’ conditions based on self-reported perceived stress. Results: A genotype × condition interaction emerged in males, with S’ participants showing larger stress-related reduction in reward responsiveness relative to L’ participants. Conclusion: While in need of replication in a larger sample, our results indicate that stress associated with a real-life event is linked to reduced reward responsiveness, the susceptibility to which is modulated by 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 genotype. Although preliminary, these findings identify anhedonia as a promising mechanism linking 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 genotype and stress to depression.

© 2011 S. Karger AG, Basel

Article / Publication Details

First-Page Preview
Abstract of Original Paper

Received: January 21, 2011
Accepted: May 05, 2011
Published online: November 17, 2011
Issue release date: December 2011

Number of Print Pages: 10
Number of Figures: 1
Number of Tables: 1

ISSN: 0302-282X (Print)
eISSN: 1423-0224 (Online)

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