Striatal activity to reward anticipation as a moderator of the association between early behavioral inhibition and changes in anxiety and depressive symptoms from adolescence to adulthood

Alva Tang, Anita Harrewijn, Brenda Benson, Simone P Haller, Amanda E Guyer, Koraly E Perez-Edgar, Argyris Stringaris, Monique Ernst, Melissa A Brotman, Daniel S Pine, Nathan A Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Importance: The early childhood temperament of behavioral inhibition (BI), characterized by inhibited and fearful behaviors, has been associated with heightened risk for anxiety and depression across the lifespan. Although several neurocognitive correlates underlying vulnerability to the development of anxiety among inhibited children have been identified, little is known about the neurocognitive correlates underlying vulnerability to the development of depression.

Objective: To examine whether blunted striatal activation to reward anticipation, a well-documented neurocognitive vulnerability marker of depression, moderates the association between early BI and the developmental changes in depression and anxiety from adolescence to adulthood.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Participants in this prospective longitudinal study were recruited at age 4 months between 1989 and 1993 in the US. Follow-up assessments extended into 2018 (age 26 years). Data were analyzed between September 2021 to March 2022.

Main Outcomes and Measures: BI was measured through an observation paradigm in infancy (ages 14 and 24 months). Neural activity to anticipated rewards during a monetary incentive delay task was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging in adolescence (between ages 15-18 years; 83 individuals had usable data). Anxiety and depressive symptoms were self-reported across adolescence to young adulthood (ages 15 and 26 years; n = 108). A latent change score model, accounting for the interdependence between anxiety and depression, tested the moderating role of striatal activity to reward anticipation in the association between early BI and changes in anxiety and depressive symptoms. A region of interest approach limited statistical tests to regions within the striatum (ie, nucleus accumbens, caudate head, caudate body, putamen).

Results: Of 165 participants, 84 (50.1%) were female and 162 (98%) were White. Preliminary analyses revealed significant increases in anxiety and depressive symptoms across ages 15 to 26 years, as well as individual variation in the magnitude of changes. Main analyses showed that reduced activity in the nucleus accumbens to reward anticipation moderated the association between early BI and increases in depressive (β = -0.32; b = -4.23; 95% CI, -7.70 to -0.76; P = .02), and more depressive symptoms at age 26 years (β = -0.47; b = -5.09; 95% CI, -7.74 to -2.43; P < .001). However, there were no significant interactions associated with latent changes in anxiety across age nor anxiety at age 26 years. Activity in the caudate and putamen did not moderate these associations.

Conclusions and Relevance: Blunted reward sensitivity in the ventral striatum may be a developmental risk factor connecting an inhibited childhood temperament and depression over the transition to adulthood. Future studies should examine the efficacy of prevention programs, which target maladaptive reward processing and motivational deficits among anxious youths, in reducing risks for later depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1199-1208
Number of pages10
JournalJAMA Psychiatry
Volume79
Issue number12
Early online date26 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.

Research programs

  • ESSB PSY

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