Assessing the relationship between the human learned helplessness depression model and anhedonia

Xin Song, Iris Vilares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The learned helplessness (LH) model is one of the most commonly used acute stress models to explain depression and it has shown good face and predictive validity. However, despite being able to induce depressed-like behaviors and corresponding psychophysiological changes, there is little evidence showing that the LH paradigm can produce anhedonia, a core symptom seen in all forms of depression in humans. So far a couple of studies showed that rodents bred for helplessness develop anhedonic-like behaviors in response to stress; yet, to the best of our knowledge, no similar human research has tried to investigate the direct relationship between the LH model and anhedonia. In the present study, we use a modified version of the original LH task to experimentally and temporarily induce learned helplessness in college students and then examine if the human LH paradigm induces anhedonia. We aim to 1: Address the ill-defined connection between the LH model and anhedonia, and 2: Directly assess helplessness in humans as opposed to the majority of nonhuman animal subjects used in the helplessness literature. We believe that our study will fill an important gap in the learned helplessness model literature, and will advance our understanding of the relationship between depression and perceived control, as well as place limitations to what can and cannot be inferred from non-human animal data in this topic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0249056
JournalPloS one
Issue number3 March
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Song, Vilares. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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