Heterogeneity in major depressive disorder (MDD) is well recognized but not well understood. Core depressive features are reward and emotional symptoms, which reflect dysfunctions in the positive valence (PV) and negative valence (NV) systems, respectively. This study assessed whether PV and NV systems (based on selected symptoms) were associated with different clinical features, antidepressant response, and levels of immunomarkers in adults with MDD.
These analyses used data from combining medications to enhance depression outcomes study (N = 665; n = 166 for immunomarkers). PV and NV symptom scores were extracted from the clinician-rated 30-item Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology. Correlational analyses were conducted.
PV and NV symptom scores were substantially associated with different clinical features. PV symptoms (impaired motivation, impaired energy, and anhedonia) were independently associated with female gender (p < .001), older age (p = .012), and higher cognitive and physical impairment (p < .001) according to the 7-item Cognitive and Physical Functioning Questionnaire. Conversely, NV symptoms (anxiety and interpersonal sensitivity) were independently associated with younger age (p = .013), more anxious comorbidities (p = .001 for generalized anxiety disorder and p = .002 for social phobia) and other commonly associated noncriterion symptoms (p < .001). Overall, PV symptoms were more responsive to antidepressants than NV symptoms (p < .0001; Cohen's d = .455). A PV symptom score was positively correlated with the concentration of three proinflammatory and one anti-inflammatory factor. In contrast, an NV symptom score was negatively associated with only one proinflammatory immunomarker.
PV and NV system functions appear to be reflected in selected clinical symptoms that differentially relate to other clinical features, treatment outcomes, and immunological function.

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