Multimethod Assessment of Anhedonia in the Prediction of Suicidality

Chris A Kelly, Fordham University


Anhedonia is a multi-faceted construct, and a decade of affective neuroscientific research has linked various anhedonic sub-components to dysfunctions in the brain’s reward process. Cross-sectional studies have provided initial evidence for a relationship between anhedonia and suicidality, but the exact nature of this relationship remains unclear. The primary goal of this prospective, 8-week-long study conducted online was to examine the relationship between suicide thoughts and behaviors (STBs) and anhedonia over time using two methods to measure anhedonic dysfunction: the Dimensional Anhedonia Rating Scale (DARS) and a probabilistic reward task (PRT). Eighty-one adults who endorsed either suicide ideation in the past month or suicide behavior in the past year were recruited from mental health forums on the website Reddit. Results indicated that anhedonia measured by the DARS was positively associated with concurrent levels of STBs, with the following week level of STBs, and with the level of STBs 7 weeks later. Changes in anhedonia from week-to-week were also associated with changes in STBs. No relationships were found between response bias on the PRT and suicidality. However, response bias scores showed none of the expected relationships with other PRT task variables or clinical variables like anhedonia. Further analyses revealed that response bias scores were likely affected by increased perceptual difference between the PRT stimuli. By contrast, discriminability scores were not only statistically related to response bias scores, they were also related to clinical variables (e.g., anhedonia) and predicted overall task earnings. These analyses indicated that, in this study, discriminability performance better reflected participants’ ability to change their behavior in the context of reward feedback such that the attainment of rewards was maximized. In post-hoc analyses using discriminability as the proxy variable for reward sensitivity, reward sensitivity was negatively associated with concurrent levels of STBs, with the following week level of STBs, and with the level of STBs 7 weeks later. Biweekly changes in reward sensitivity measured by the PRT were not associated with biweekly changes in STBs. While more research is needed, evidence continues to converge on anhedonia as a potentially important correlate of or mechanism in the development of suicidality.

Subject Area

Psychology|Neurosciences|Mental health|Behavioral psychology

Recommended Citation

Kelly, Chris A, "Multimethod Assessment of Anhedonia in the Prediction of Suicidality" (2020). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28086038.