Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2015

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Biology & Biomedical Sciences (Neurosciences)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Behavioral and neural response to rewards and punishments has been the subject of a growing literature with particular interest within developmental, psychopathology, and individual difference domains. There is now mounting evidence suggesting that adolescents show heightened response to reward relative to adults, and that adolescents with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), elevated depressive symptoms, or at high-risk for depression show reduced response to reward. However, it is unclear whether similar relations between response to incentives and development/psychopathology are observed during childhood. Here we examine behavioral, neural (functional magnetic resonance imaging - fMRI), and self-reported responsiveness to gain and loss of rewards within healthy children and young adults. We relate observed neural/behavioral incentive responsiveness to 1) developmental stage, 2) risk for depression, and 3) self-reported incentive sensitivity. First, studies investigating developmental stage indicated that responsiveness to gain and loss of reward feedback show differing relations with age. Specifically, while children show elevated behavioral and neural (dorsal/posterior insula) response to loss of reward relative to adults, response to reward was similar across age groups. Second, we observed similar levels of both gain approach and loss avoidance behavior between healthy children at relatively high and low-risk for MDD, based on a positive/negative maternal history of MDD respectively. Third, across several studies both elevated gain approach and elevated loss avoidance behavior related to elevated self-reported incentive sensitivity as assessed via different questionnaire types (i.e. hedonic capacity, Behavioral Inhibition System/Behavioral Activation System, and anhedonic depressive scales). Interestingly, gain approach and loss avoidance behavior predicted unique variance in self-reported incentive sensitivity (BAS drive) and relations between incentive sensitivity and behavior did not differ based on age or depression risk status. Together these results highlight the importance of responsiveness to feedback signaling the loss of reward from both developmental and incentive sensitivity perspectives. Future work is needed to examine how gain and loss responsiveness during childhood prospectively predicts changes in incentive responsiveness over development and incidence of depression/changes in depressive symptoms.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Deanna M Barch

Committee Members

Tamara Hershey, Steven Petersen, Joan L Luby, Todd Braver


Permanent URL:

Included in

Biology Commons