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Computational Psychiatry: towards a mathematically informed understanding of mental illness


Adams, Rick A; Huys, Quentin J M; Roiser, Jonathan P (2016). Computational Psychiatry: towards a mathematically informed understanding of mental illness. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 87(1):53-63.

Abstract

Computational Psychiatry aims to describe the relationship between the brain's neurobiology, its environment and mental symptoms in computational terms. In so doing, it may improve psychiatric classification and the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. It can unite many levels of description in a mechanistic and rigorous fashion, while avoiding biological reductionism and artificial categorisation. We describe how computational models of cognition can infer the current state of the environment and weigh up future actions, and how these models provide new perspectives on two example disorders, depression and schizophrenia. Reinforcement learning describes how the brain can choose and value courses of actions according to their long-term future value. Some depressive symptoms may result from aberrant valuations, which could arise from prior beliefs about the loss of agency (‘helplessness’), or from an inability to inhibit the mental exploration of aversive events. Predictive coding explains how the brain might perform Bayesian inference about the state of its environment by combining sensory data with prior beliefs, each weighted according to their certainty (or precision). Several cortical abnormalities in schizophrenia might reduce precision at higher levels of the inferential hierarchy, biasing inference towards sensory data and away from prior beliefs. We discuss whether striatal hyperdopaminergia might have an adaptive function in this context, and also how reinforcement learning and incentive salience models may shed light on the disorder. Finally, we review some of Computational Psychiatry's applications to neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, and some pitfalls to avoid when applying its methods.

Abstract

Computational Psychiatry aims to describe the relationship between the brain's neurobiology, its environment and mental symptoms in computational terms. In so doing, it may improve psychiatric classification and the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. It can unite many levels of description in a mechanistic and rigorous fashion, while avoiding biological reductionism and artificial categorisation. We describe how computational models of cognition can infer the current state of the environment and weigh up future actions, and how these models provide new perspectives on two example disorders, depression and schizophrenia. Reinforcement learning describes how the brain can choose and value courses of actions according to their long-term future value. Some depressive symptoms may result from aberrant valuations, which could arise from prior beliefs about the loss of agency (‘helplessness’), or from an inability to inhibit the mental exploration of aversive events. Predictive coding explains how the brain might perform Bayesian inference about the state of its environment by combining sensory data with prior beliefs, each weighted according to their certainty (or precision). Several cortical abnormalities in schizophrenia might reduce precision at higher levels of the inferential hierarchy, biasing inference towards sensory data and away from prior beliefs. We discuss whether striatal hyperdopaminergia might have an adaptive function in this context, and also how reinforcement learning and incentive salience models may shed light on the disorder. Finally, we review some of Computational Psychiatry's applications to neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, and some pitfalls to avoid when applying its methods.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Engineering
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:18 Feb 2016 09:02
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 18:06
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN:0022-3050
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1136/jnnp-2015-310737
PubMed ID:26157034

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