Reward-Related Ventral Striatum Activity Buffers Against the Experience of Depressive Symptoms Associated with Sleep Disturbances
The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience | 20 Sep 2017
R Avinun, A Nevo, AR Knodt, ML Elliott, SR Radtke, BD Brigidi and AR Hariri
Sleep disturbances represent one risk factor for depression. Reward-related brain function, particularly the activity of the ventral striatum (VS), has been identified as a potential buffer against stress-related depression. We were therefore interested in testing whether reward-related VS activity would moderate the effect of sleep disturbances on depression in a large cohort of young adults. Data were available from 1129 university students (mean age 19.71 ± 1.25 years; 637 women) who completed a reward-related functional MRI task to assay VS activity and provided self-reports of sleep using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and symptoms of depression using a summation of the General Distress/Depression (GDD) and Anhedonic Depression (AD) subscales of the Mood and Anxiety Symptoms Questionnaire-short form. Analyses revealed that as VS activity increased the association between sleep disturbances and depressive symptoms decreased. The interaction between sleep disturbances and VS activity was robust to the inclusion of sex, age, race/ethnicity, past or present clinical disorder, early or recent life stress, and anxiety symptoms, as well as the interactions between VS activity and early or recent life stress as covariates. We provide initial evidence that high reward-related VS activity may buffer against depressive symptoms associated with poor sleep. Our analyses help advance an emerging literature supporting the importance of individual differences in reward-related brain function as a potential biomarker of relative risk for depression.Significance Statement: Sleep disturbances are a common risk factor for depression. An emerging literature suggests that reward-related activity of the ventral striatum (VS), a brain region critical for motivation and goal-directed behavior, may buffer against the effect of negative experiences on the development of depression. Using data from a large sample of 1129 university students we demonstrate that as reward-related VS activity increases, the link between sleep disturbances and depression decreases. This finding contributes to accumulating research demonstrating that reward-related brain function may be a useful biomarker of relative risk for depression in the context of negative experiences.
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