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Greater Cumulative Lifetime Stressor Exposure Predicts a Blunted RewP in Adolescent Girls Over Two Years

      Abstract

      Background

      Although research has found that life stress is associated with reward-related brain activity, few studies have examined how cumulative stressors occurring over the entire lifetime affect reward processing during adolescence.

      Method

      To address this issue, we investigated how lifetime stressor exposure related to reward processing, indexed by the reward positivity (RewP), in 240 adolescent girls between 8 and 14 years old (M = 12.4). Participants were followed for two years. They completed a reward task at baseline and follow up, and the Stress and Adversity Inventory at follow-up.

      Results

      As hypothesized, greater lifetime stressor exposure was related to a blunted RewP at the follow-up session while controlling for baseline age, baseline RewP, and time between assessments. Furthermore, this association was evident for acute but not chronic lifetime stressors.

      Conclusions

      These data suggest that the development of adaptive reward processing may be adversely impacted by experiencing major life stressors. The results may thus have implications for understanding how stressors increase risk for psychopathology, such as major depressive disorder.

      Keywords

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