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Computational Psychiatry: towards a mathematically informed understanding of mental illness

Adams, RA; Huys, QJ; Roiser, JP; (2015) Computational Psychiatry: towards a mathematically informed understanding of mental illness. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 10.1136/jnnp-2015-310737. Green open access

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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.

Type: Article
Title: Computational Psychiatry: towards a mathematically informed understanding of mental illness
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1136/jnnp-2015-310737
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jnnp-2015-310737
Language: English
Additional information: This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: COGNITION, DEPRESSION, PSYCHIATRY, PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY, SCHIZOPHRENIA
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1472479
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