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Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology

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Social Stress Moderates the Association Between Sleep Quality and Reward-related Brain Function in Young Adult Women

Objective: Sleep difficulties and stressful life events may increase risk for depression by disrupting neural response to rewards. However, the interactive effects of sleep and stressors on reward-related brain function have not been examined. The present study evaluates sleep quality, sleep duration, and perceived stress as prospective predictors of reward-related brain function in young adult women.

Method: Participants were women enrolled in the Pittsburgh Girls Study, a study of neurobiological precursors to depression (n=48; 19-21 years of age; 60% African American). Sleep quality and duration were assessed using sleep diary and actigraphy, and perceived stress was assessed by questionnaire, daily for one week prior to participation in a monetary reward guessing task during fMRI. Symptoms of depression were assessed using diagnostic interview.

Results: Perceived stress moderated the effect of perceived sleep quality, but not sleep duration, on BOLD response in the ventral striatum during anticipation of monetary rewards [z(44)=2.25, k = 305, MNI coordinates: 8, 8, -12]. Greater sleep quality was associated with increased striatal response in participants with low to moderate levels of perceived stress, but not high levels of perceived stress. Results persisted after adjusting for current depression symptoms.

Conclusion: These results show, for the first time, that associations between sleep quality and striatal response during reward anticipation may vary as a function of perceived stress in young adult women. Poor sleep quality and high perceived stress, which are important risk factors for psychopathology, do not act in isolation and should be considered together in neurobiological models of reward-related brain function and depression.

Melynda Casement
University of Oregon

Ana Martin
University of Pittsburgh

Kathryn Keenan
University of Chicago

Amanda Guyer
University of California, Davis

Alison Hipwell
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Martica Hall
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Erika Forbes
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center


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