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Reviews in the Neurosciences

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Volume 29, Issue 7


Dopamine dysregulation hypothesis: the common basis for motivational anhedonia in major depressive disorder and schizophrenia?

Jan Józef SzczypińskiORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5682-5840
  • Corresponding author
  • Laboratory of Brain Imaging, Neurobiology Center, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences, 3 Pasteur Street, 02-093 Warsaw, Poland
  • Medical University of Warsaw, Chair of Psychiatry, Nowowiejska 27, 00-665 Warsaw, Poland
  • Center for Modern Interdisciplinary Technologies, Neurocognitive Laboratory, Wileńska 4, 87-100 Torun, Poland
  • orcid.org/0000-0002-5682-5840
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Mateusz Gola
  • Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience, Institute of Neural Computations, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, #0559, La Jolla, CA 92093-0559, USA
  • Institute of Psychology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Clinical Neuroscience Lab, Jaracza 1, 00-001, Warsaw, Poland
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2018-03-24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2017-0091


Abnormalities in reward processing are crucial symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) and schizophrenia (SCH). Recent neuroscientific findings regarding MDD have led to conclusions about two different symptoms related to reward processing: motivational and consummatory anhedonia, corresponding, respectively, to impaired motivation to obtain rewards (‘wanting’), and diminished satisfaction from consuming them (‘liking’). One can ask: which of these is common for MDD and SCH. In our review of the latest neuroscientific studies, we show that MDD and SCH do not share consummatory anhedonia, as SCH patients usually have unaltered liking. Therefore, we investigated whether motivational anhedonia is the common symptom across MDD and SCH. With regard to the similarities and differences between the neural mechanisms of MDD and SCH, here we expand the current knowledge of motivation deficits and present the common underlying mechanism of motivational anhedonia – the dopamine dysregulation hypothesis – stating that any prolonged dysregulation in tonic dopamine signaling that exceeds the given equilibrium can lead to striatal dysfunction and motivational anhedonia. The implications for further research and treatment of MDD and SCH are also discussed.

Keywords: dopamine; major depressive disorder; motivational anhedonia; reward system; schizophrenia


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About the article

Received: 2017-10-30

Accepted: 2018-01-30

Published Online: 2018-03-24

Published in Print: 2018-09-25

Conflict of interest statement: The authors report no conflicts of interest with respect to the content of this manuscript.

Citation Information: Reviews in the Neurosciences, Volume 29, Issue 7, Pages 727–744, ISSN (Online) 2191-0200, ISSN (Print) 0334-1763, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2017-0091.

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