No fun no glory: a biopsychosocial investigation of how adolescents lose the ability to experience pleasure and may gain it back again


Anhedonia, a decreased capability to experience pleasure, is of major public health and clinical importance. It is a dreadful experience for those who suffer from it, causing a sense of disengagement from the surrounding world and increased risk of suicide. Losing the ability to experience pleasure has particularly far-reaching negative developmental consequences in adolescence and young adulthood, when life course decisions are made on the basis of what is satisfying. The relevance of this health problem urges for novel approaches to reinstitute the ability to experience pleasure once it is lost. The proposed study will use state-of-the-art biopsychosocial methods to understand better what causes and sustains anhedonia, and explore the potential of a non-invasive ?shock? to reboot a dysregulated reward system.
Starting point of the research program is the notion that specific experiences can cause loss of pleasure, which is hard to counteract due to its innate demotivating impact. The program consists of three interrelated projects. The first project exploits opportunities provided by a large existing longitudinal study, TRAILS, to test theory-driven hypotheses regarding factors implicated in the onset and course of anhedonia in adolescents and young adults. The second project involves a cross-sectional survey to explore associations between losses in various domains of pleasure as well as consummatory, anticipatory, and motivational aspects of anhedonia; topics that have as yet received little attention. Besides, project 2 serves as a sampling frame for the project 3, which examines whether planned exposure to bungee jumping, an experience known to activate the dopamine system and to elicit strong emotions, can serve as a model means of rebooting the reward system and hence foster behaviors that can restore the pleasure of everyday activities and accomplishments.



Scientific article


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. A.J. Oldehinkel

Affiliated with

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Universitair Medisch Centrum Groningen, Kinder- en Jeugdpsychiatrie

Team members

Drs. T. Bak, Dr. V.E. Heininga, Dr. V.E. Heininga, Drs. M.W. Masselink, Drs. M.W. Masselink, Drs. M.W. Masselink, Dr. E. Nederhof, Prof. dr. A.J. Oldehinkel, Dr. G.H. van Roekel, Dr. C. Vrijen, Dr. C. Vrijen, Dr. K.J. Wardenaar


11/06/2013 to 14/07/2018