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Winter 2014 Talk

Erika Forbes, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh

Thursday, January 30 @ 12:30pm
Applied Physics and Math Building, room 4301

Neural Reward Systems, Social Context, and the Development of Depression and Substance Use

Adolescence is a fascinating developmental period during which to study the affective neuroscience of depression and substance use. Not only is this the period of vulnerability for the emergence of depression and substance use problems, but it also involves striking changes in social context, reward-driven behavior, and neural reward circuitry. Seemingly paradoxically, these same social, behavioral, and neural changes that make adolescence a time of reward-seeking are postulated to play a role in the development of depression. This presentation will focus on reward systems-neural, behavioral, and phenomenological features geared toward the pursuit and enjoyment of pleasant experiences-as a factor in the development of depression and substance use. Consistent with longstanding conceptual models of reduced positive affect in depression and with conceptual models of reward processing in the early stages of addiction, our findings implicate disruptions in reward systems in the pathophysiology, etiology, and treatment of depression and in the pathophysiology of substance use. In addition, given the data-sharing collaboration between the Pitt Mother & Child Project and the PING Study, this presentation will describe relevant findings on social context risk and brain development. In all, this presentation will highlight the value of greater integration between clinical neuroscience and developmental psychopathology in the service of understanding and preventing adolescent psychopathology.