Greater Cumulative Lifetime Stressor Exposure Predicts Blunted Reward Positivity in Adolescent Girls Followed for 2 Years



      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.


      To address this issue, we investigated how lifetime stressor exposure related to reward processing, indexed by the reward positivity, in 240 adolescent girls between ages 8 and 14 years (mean age = 12.4). Participants were followed for 2 years. They completed a reward task at baseline and follow-up and the Stress and Adversity Inventory at follow-up.


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


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


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