Interferon-beta-induced changes in neuroimaging phenotypes of appetitive motivation and reactivity to emotional salience.
Treatment with interferon (IFN) has been associated with depressive side effects. Previous neuroimaging studies have provided information about changes in brain activation patterns in patients under treatment with IFN-alpha, but the effect of other IFNs, or the role of the underlying disease, has yet to be clarified. In the present fMRI study, we looked at brain changes after 8 days of IFN-beta treatment in N = =17 healthy volunteers, thus avoiding the possible confound of the effects of underlying pathology in studies of IFN-treated patients with neurological or other medical disorders. We followed a symptom dimensional approach by simultaneously investigating two distinct symptom domains of depressiveness: negative affect (amygdala) and appetitive motivation (ventral striatum). In these early phases of IFN treatment we detected a selective change in neural substrates of appetitive motivation, consistent with the predominant symptomatic change recorded in psychopathology ratings. In contrast, the fMRI phenotype of negative affect, which is known to characterize disorders of affect involving anxiety and depressiveness as well as individual vulnerability to depression, was unchanged after treatment. These findings suggest that IFN may induce an affective syndrome through a mechanism involving down-regulation of appetitive motivation.