From an affective neuroscience perspective, the goal of achieving a
deeper, more mechanistic understanding of the development of depression
will require rigorous models that address the core underlying affective
changes. Such an understanding will necessitate developing and testing
hypotheses focusing on specific components of the complex neural systems
involved in the regulation of emotion and motivation. In this paper, we
illustrate these principles by describing one example of this type of
approach: examining the role of disruptions in neural systems of positive
affect in major depressive disorder in school-age children and
adolescents. We begin by defining positive affect, proposing that positive
affect can be distinguished from negative affect by its neurobehavioral
features. We provide an overview of neural systems related to reward and
positive affect, with a discussion of their potential involvement in
depression. We describe a developmental psychopathology framework,
addressing developmental issues that could play a role in the etiology and
maintenance of early-onset depression. We review the literature on altered
positive affect in depression, suggesting directions for future research.
Finally, we discuss the treatment implications of this framework.
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