Anhedonia is one of the symptoms commonly shared by different mental disorders including schizophrenia, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. Recent findings also suggest that patients with schizophrenia, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder may fail to translate emotional salience into effortful behaviour and to maintain motivation to achieve goal-directed behaviour in everyday life. However, most of the previous studies were mainly limited to self-reported measures and examination of patients with only one diagnostic group without comparing to other mental disorders. It is still not clear whether there are significant correlations between the emotion-behaviour decoupling with clinical symptoms among different mental disorders.
In order to bridge such a gap of knowledge, Dr. Raymond Chan and his team from the Neuropsychology and Applied Cognitive Neuroscience (NACN) Laboratory, CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology have collaborated with international collaborators to examine specifically the dissociation between affective experience and motivated behaviours in patients with schizophrenia, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. They have administered a computer-based test to examine the pattern of such dissociation in 42 patients with schizophrenia, 44 major depressive disorder, 43 bipolar disorders and 43 healthy controls. All the participants were also assessed by a set of clinical rating scales capturing anhedonia. Their findings showed that all the patients with schizophrenia, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder exhibited different levels of anhedonia as well as emotion-behaviour decoupling. However, only patients with schizophrenia exhibited significantly lower correspondence between self-reported liking and behaviour in both desirable and undesirable conditions, suggesting a severe dissociation of affective experience and motivated behaviour comparing to healthy controls. On the other hand, the deficits in emotion-behaviour coupling in participants with MDD and BD mainly occurred in undesirable stimulus avoidance, as well as desirable stimulus seeking during evoked responding.
Taken together, these findings suggest that although all three patient groups exhibit a lowered capacity to experience pleasure as well as a lack of motivation, the pattern of emotion-behaviour dissociation is different across schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. These findings provide a potentially common psychopathological mechanism of anhedonia and avolition across different mental disorders, which may be helpful for early detection of these disorders and the development of novel interventions. Dr. Chan’s team is planning to examine the neural mechanism underlying the observed emotion-behaviour dissociation in patients with schizophrenia, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.
This study was supported by grants from the National Science Fund China, National Key Research and Development Programme, the Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission Grant, the Beijing Training Project for the Leading Talents in Science and Technology, the Natural Science Foundation of Shandong Province, and the CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology.
The paper is now available online from Journal of Abnormal Psychology
Wang, Y. Y., Ge, M. H., Zhu, G. H., Jiang, N. Z., Wang, G. Z., Lv, S. X., Zhang, Q., Guo, J. N., Tian, X., Lui, S. S. Y., Cheung, E. F. C., Heerey, E. A., Sun, H. W.*, Chan, R. C. K. * (2020). Emotion-behaviour decoupling in individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 129(4), 331–342.
Lui, S.S. Y., Liu, A. C. Y., Chui, W. W. H., Li, Z., Geng, F., Wang, Y., Heerey, E. A., Cheung, E. F. C., Chan, R. C.. K. * (2016). The nature of anhedonia and avolition in patients with first-episode schizophrenia. Psychological Medicine 46(2), 437-447.
Lui, S. S. Y., Shi, Y. F., Au, A. C. W., Tsui, C. F., Chan, C. K. Y., Leung, M M. W., Wong, P. T. Y., Wang, Y., Yan, C., Chan, R. C. K.* (2016). Affective experience and motivated behavior in schizophrenia spectrum disorders: Evidence from clinical and non-clinical samples. Neuropsychology 30(6), 673-684.
Xie, D. J.,#, Lui, S. S. Y.#, Geng, F. L., Yang, Z. Y., Zou, Y. M., Li, Y., Yeung, H. K. H., Cheung, E. F. C., Heerey, E. A., Chan, R. C. K.* (2018). Dissociation between affective experience and motivated behaviour in schizophrenia patients and their unaffected first-degree relatives and schizotypal individuals. Psychological Medicine, 48(9), 1474-1483. DOI 10.1017/S0033291717002926
Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Beijing 100101, China.