Diego Pizzagalli, Ph.D. (Harvard Medical School, USA)

The Neuroscience of Major Depression: Focus on Anhedonia

June 26, 2019 | 1 pm

Anhedonia – the loss of pleasure or lack of reactivity to pleasurable stimuli – is a core symptom of depression and a potential risk factor for various forms of psychopathology. Few studies to date have employed laboratory-based measures to objectively characterize this important depressive phenotype. Further, although preclinical data have emphasized stress-mediated disturbances of mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic functions in the pathophysiology of depression, the mechanisms and substrates underlying these processes are largely unknown in humans. Findings from recent studies in Dr. Pizzagalli’s laboratory combining behavioral, functional neuroimaging, and pharmacological approaches to study the neurobiology of anhedonia will be reviewed. Collectively, these findings indicate that depression is characterized by an impaired tendency to modulate behavior as a function of prior reinforcements and dysfunction in brain reward pathways. The potential clinical implications of these findings will be discussed.


Dr. Pizzagalli received his M.A. (1995) and Ph.D. (1998) from the University of Zurich, Switzerland and did post-doctoral work at University of Wisconsin, Madison. From 2002-2010 he was a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, where he served as the John and Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of the Social Sciences. In 2010, he was recruited to McLean Hospital to serve as the Founding Director of the newly established Center for Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research (CDASR), as well as the Director of the McLean Imaging Center (MIC). Since September 2015, he also serves as the Director of Research for the Division of Depression and Anxiety. He is currently a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Department of Basic Psychological Research and Research Methods (SCAN Unit)
Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG) | Lecture hall A (6th floor)