Mood disorders and alcohol-/ substance use disorders are common and debilitating heterogeneous conditions associated with structural and functional abnormalities in reward-related brain structures such as the caudate-putamen, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus. Cognitive deficits are observed in these disorders and play an important role in their course. The diathesis–stress model proposes that these disorders are all influenced by underlying genetic vulnerabilities that in combination with various stressors trigger the symptomatology.
Translational research has played a pivotal role in providing a circuit-level framework to explore the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms of mood, reward, and cognition, enabling the identification of molecular treatment targets. Mood disorders and alcohol-/ substance use disorders today are among the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Despite this, the diagnoses are still solely symptom-based, and the conditions are underdiagnosed and undertreated. Furthermore, sex differences in prevalence, symptoms, and responses to treatment have been reported, underlining the complexity. Therefore, there is an unmet and urgent need for identifying biomarkers and for the development of novel rapid-acting stratified treatment strategies in these disorders.
In the “Mood and Reward” column, we will perform preclinical in vitro and in vivo studies as well as clinical intervention and imaging studies with the aim to elucidate cellular, molecular, and histological abnormalities underpinning mood, reward and their cognitive correlates. Hopefully, these activities can pave the way for identifying biomarkers and new treatment avenues such as new drug targets and psychosocial interventions for these devastating disorders.