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Atypical processing of uncertainty in individuals at risk for psychosis


Cole, David M; Diaconescu, Andreea O; Pfeiffer, Ulrich J; Brodersen, Kay H; Mathys, Christoph D; Julkowski, Dominika; Ruhrmann, Stephan; Schilbach, Leonhard; Tittgemeyer, Marc; Vogeley, Kai; Stephan, Klaas E (2020). Atypical processing of uncertainty in individuals at risk for psychosis. NeuroImage: Clinical, 26:102239.

Abstract

Current theories of psychosis highlight the role of abnormal learning signals, i.e., prediction errors (PEs) and uncertainty, in the formation of delusional beliefs. We employed computational analyses of behaviour and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine whether such abnormalities are evident in clinical high risk (CHR) individuals.

Non-medicated CHR individuals (n = 13) and control participants (n = 13) performed a probabilistic learning paradigm during fMRI data acquisition. We used a hierarchical Bayesian model to infer subject-specific computations from behaviour – with a focus on PEs and uncertainty (or its inverse, precision) at different levels, including environmental ‘volatility’ – and used these computational quantities for analyses of fMRI data.

Computational modelling of CHR individuals’ behaviour indicated volatility estimates converged to significantly higher levels than in controls. Model-based fMRI demonstrated increased activity in prefrontal and insular regions of CHR individuals in response to precision-weighted low-level outcome PEs, while activations of prefrontal, orbitofrontal and anterior insula cortex by higher-level PEs (that serve to update volatility estimates) were reduced. Additionally, prefrontal cortical activity in response to outcome PEs in CHR was negatively associated with clinical measures of global functioning.

Our results suggest a multi-faceted learning abnormality in CHR individuals under conditions of environmental uncertainty, comprising higher levels of volatility estimates combined with reduced cortical activation, and abnormally high activations in prefrontal and insular areas by precision-weighted outcome PEs. This atypical representation of high- and low-level learning signals might reflect a predisposition to delusion formation.

Abstract

Current theories of psychosis highlight the role of abnormal learning signals, i.e., prediction errors (PEs) and uncertainty, in the formation of delusional beliefs. We employed computational analyses of behaviour and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine whether such abnormalities are evident in clinical high risk (CHR) individuals.

Non-medicated CHR individuals (n = 13) and control participants (n = 13) performed a probabilistic learning paradigm during fMRI data acquisition. We used a hierarchical Bayesian model to infer subject-specific computations from behaviour – with a focus on PEs and uncertainty (or its inverse, precision) at different levels, including environmental ‘volatility’ – and used these computational quantities for analyses of fMRI data.

Computational modelling of CHR individuals’ behaviour indicated volatility estimates converged to significantly higher levels than in controls. Model-based fMRI demonstrated increased activity in prefrontal and insular regions of CHR individuals in response to precision-weighted low-level outcome PEs, while activations of prefrontal, orbitofrontal and anterior insula cortex by higher-level PEs (that serve to update volatility estimates) were reduced. Additionally, prefrontal cortical activity in response to outcome PEs in CHR was negatively associated with clinical measures of global functioning.

Our results suggest a multi-faceted learning abnormality in CHR individuals under conditions of environmental uncertainty, comprising higher levels of volatility estimates combined with reduced cortical activation, and abnormally high activations in prefrontal and insular areas by precision-weighted outcome PEs. This atypical representation of high- and low-level learning signals might reflect a predisposition to delusion formation.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Engineering
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Imaging
Life Sciences > Neurology
Health Sciences > Neurology (clinical)
Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Uncontrolled Keywords:Cognitive Neuroscience, Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging, Neurology, Clinical Neurology
Language:English
Date:1 January 2020
Deposited On:08 Jan 2021 11:58
Last Modified:01 Feb 2021 15:38
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:2213-1582
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2020.102239
PubMed ID:32182575

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