Public Release: 

Brain activity may buffer against insomnia-related depression

The ventral striatum could be a moderator of depression risk and target for treatment

Society for Neuroscience


IMAGE: This is a 3-D representation of reward-related ventral striatum activity. Participants with higher activity in this region were less likely to report symptoms of depression when experiencing poor sleep quality.... view more 

Credit: Annchen R. Knodt, Duke Neurogenetics Lab

Increased activity in a brain region involved in motivation may protect from depressive symptoms associated with poor sleep, according to a large study of young adults published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Research has found that poor sleep is associated with depression in some but not all individuals, suggesting that other factors may moderate this relationship. Reduced activity in the ventral striatum (VS), a part of the brain that supports reward-processing and goal-directed behaviors, has also been associated with depression, and stimulation of this brain region has a therapeutic effect in some depressed patients, making it a possible moderating factor.

Reut Avinun and colleagues explored the relationship between self-reported sleep patterns, VS activity and depressive symptoms in a sample of more than 1,000 university students participating in the Duke Neurogenetics Study. Functional magnetic resonance imaging data collected as participants played a card-guessing game with positive and negative feedback, which was designed to engage the VS, suggested that students with higher reward-related VS activity were less likely to report symptoms of depression when experiencing poor sleep quality.

Further research could yield insight into the VS as a moderator of depression risk as well as a target for treatment, and help to explain why some individuals are more resilient to the relationship between depression and poor sleep.


Article: Reward-Related Ventral Striatum Activity Buffers Against the Experience of Depressive Symptoms Associated with Sleep Disturbances


Corresponding author: Reut Avinun (Duke University, Durham, NC, USA),

About JNeurosci

The Journal of Neuroscience (JNeurosci) is the flagship journal of the Society for Neuroscience. JNeurosci publishes papers on a broad range of topics in neuroscience in a print edition each Wednesday and recently began publishing early-release PDFs of studies online shortly after acceptance.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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