Associations among smoking, anhedonia, and reward learning in depression

Gabrielle I Liverant, Denise M Sloan, Diego A Pizzagalli, Christopher B Harte, Barbara W Kamholz, Laina E Rosebrock, Andrew L Cohen, Maurizio Fava, Gary B Kaplan
Behavior Therapy 2014, 45 (5): 651-63
Depression and cigarette smoking co-occur at high rates. However, the etiological mechanisms that contribute to this relationship remain unclear. Anhedonia and associated impairments in reward learning are key features of depression, which also have been linked to the onset and maintenance of cigarette smoking. However, few studies have investigated differences in anhedonia and reward learning among depressed smokers and depressed nonsmokers. The goal of this study was to examine putative differences in anhedonia and reward learning in depressed smokers (n=36) and depressed nonsmokers (n=44). To this end, participants completed self-report measures of anhedonia and behavioral activation (BAS reward responsiveness scores) and as well as a probabilistic reward task rooted in signal detection theory, which measures reward learning (Pizzagalli, Jahn, & O'Shea, 2005). When considering self-report measures, depressed smokers reported higher trait anhedonia and reduced BAS reward responsiveness scores compared to depressed nonsmokers. In contrast to self-report measures, nicotine-satiated depressed smokers demonstrated greater acquisition of reward-based learning compared to depressed nonsmokers as indexed by the probabilistic reward task. Findings may point to a potential mechanism underlying the frequent co-occurrence of smoking and depression. These results highlight the importance of continued investigation of the role of anhedonia and reward system functioning in the co-occurrence of depression and nicotine abuse. Results also may support the use of treatments targeting reward learning (e.g., behavioral activation) to enhance smoking cessation among individuals with depression.

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