Reframing PTSD for computational psychiatry with the active inference framework

Linson, Adam and Friston, Karl (2019). Reframing PTSD for computational psychiatry with the active inference framework. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 24(5) pp. 347–368.



Introduction: Recent advances in research on stress and, respectively, on disorders of perception, learning, and behaviour speak to a promising synthesis of current insights from (i) neurobiology, cognitive neuroscience and psychology of stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and (ii) computational psychiatry approaches to pathophysiology (e.g. of schizophrenia and autism).

Methods: Specifically, we apply this synthesis to PTSD. The framework of active inference offers an embodied and embedded lens through which to understand neuronal mechanisms, structures, and processes of cognitive function and dysfunction. In turn, this offers an explanatory model of how healthy mental functioning can go awry due to psychopathological conditions that impair inference about our environment and our bodies. In this context, auditory phenomena—known to be especially relevant to studies of PTSD and schizophrenia—and traditional models of auditory function can be viewed from an evolutionary perspective based on active inference.

Results: We assess and contextualise a range of evidence on audition, stress, psychosis, and PTSD, and bring some existing partial models of PTSD into multilevel alignment.

Conclusions: The novel perspective on PTSD we present aims to serve as a basis for new experimental designs and therapeutic interventions that integrate fundamentally biological, cognitive, behavioural, and environmental factors.

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