The following is a summary of “History of major depressive disorder is associated with differences in implicit learning of emotional faces” published in the May 2023 issue of Psychiatric Research by Kolobaric, et al.
Frequently, major depressive disorder is associated with impaired reward learning, which persists after remission. In this investigation, a probabilistic learning task utilizing social rewards as a learning signal was developed. As an implicit learning signal, the researchers examined the effects of depression on social rewards (facial affect displays). About 57 participants without a depression history and 62 participants with a depression history (current or remitted) conducted a structured clinical interview and an implicit learning task with social reward.
Participants underwent an open-ended interview to determine whether they consciously knew the rule. Comparing participants with and without a history of depression, linear mixed-effects models revealed that participants without a history of depression learned more quickly and preferred the positive stimulus more strongly than the harmful stimulus. In contrast, those with a history of depression learned, on average, more slowly and exhibited increased stimulus preference variability. There were no disparities in learning between individuals with active and remitted depression.
People with a history of depression demonstrate slower reward learning and increased variability in their learning behavior on a probabilistic social reward task. Improving researchers’ comprehension of alterations in social reward learning and their associations with depression and anhedonia may aid in developing psychotherapeutic interventions for modifying maladaptive emotion regulation.