Abnormal reward-related responses in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) have been reported for major depressive disorder (MDD) patients. However, variability exists in the reported results, which could be due to heterogeneity in neuropathology of depression. To parse the heterogeneity of MDD we investigated variation of NAcc responses to gain and loss anticipations using fMRI. We found NAcc responses to monetary gain and loss were significantly variable across subjects in both MDD and healthy control (HC) groups. The variations were seen as a hyperactive response subtype that showed elevated activation to the anticipation of both gain and loss, an intermediate response with greater activation to gain than loss, and a suppressed-activity with reduced activation to both gain and loss compared to a non-monetary condition. While these response variability were seen in both MDD and HC subjects, specific symptoms were significantly associated with the right NAcc variation in MDD. Both the hyper-and suppressed-activity subtypes of MDD patients had severe suicidal ideation and anhedonia symptoms. The intermediate subjects had less severity in these symptoms. These results suggest that differing propensities in reward responsiveness in the NAcc may affect the development of specific symptoms in MDD.
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