Objective: Anhedonia, traditionally defined as a diminished capacity for pleasure, is a core symptom of schizophrenia (SZ). However, modern empirical evidence indicates that hedonic capacity may be intact in SZ and anhedonia may be better conceptualized as an abnormality in the temporal dynamics of emotion.Method: To test this theory, the current study used ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to examine whether abnormalities in one aspect of the temporal dynamics of emotion, sustained reward responsiveness, were associated with anhedonia. Two experiments were conducted in outpatients diagnosed with SZ (n = 28; n = 102) and healthy controls (n = 28; n = 71) who completed EMA reports of emotional experience at multiple time points in the day over the course of several days. Markov chain analyses were applied to the EMA data to evaluate stochastic dynamic changes in emotional states to determine processes underlying failures in sustained reward responsiveness.Results: In both studies, Markov models indicated that SZ had deficits in the ability to sustain positive emotion over time, which resulted from failures in augmentation (ie, the ability to maintain or increase the intensity of positive emotion from time t to t+1) and diminution (ie, when emotions at time t+1 are opposite in valence from emotions at time t, resulting in a decrease in the intensity of positive emotion over time). Furthermore, in both studies, augmentation deficits were associated with anhedonia.Conclusions: These computational findings clarify how abnormalities in the temporal dynamics of emotion contribute to anhedonia.
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