1. Human Biology and Medicine
  2. Neuroscience
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Paranoia as a deficit in non-social belief updating

  1. Erin J Reed
  2. Stefan Uddenberg
  3. Praveen Suthaharan
  4. Christoph H Mathys
  5. Jane R Taylor
  6. Stephanie Mary Groman
  7. Philip R Corlett  Is a corresponding author
  1. Yale University, United States
  2. Princeton University, United States
  3. Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA), Italy
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2020;9:e56345 doi: 10.7554/eLife.56345

Abstract

Paranoia is the belief that harm is intended by others. It may arise from selective pressures to infer and avoid social threats, particularly in ambiguous or changing circumstances. We propose that uncertainty may be sufficient to elicit learning differences in paranoid individuals, without social threat. We used reversal learning behavior and computational modeling to estimate belief updating across individuals with and without mental illness, online participants, and rats chronically exposed to methamphetamine, an elicitor of paranoia in humans. Paranoia is associated with a stronger prior on volatility, accompanied by elevated sensitivity to perceived changes in the task environment. Methamphetamine exposure in rats recapitulates this impaired uncertainty-driven belief updating and rigid anticipation of a volatile environment. Our work provides evidence of fundamental, domain-general learning differences in paranoid individuals. This paradigm enables further assessment of the interplay between uncertainty and belief-updating across individuals and species.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Erin J Reed

    Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Stefan Uddenberg

    Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, New Jersey, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Praveen Suthaharan

    Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Christoph H Mathys

    Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA), Trieste, Italy
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Jane R Taylor

    Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  6. Stephanie Mary Groman

    Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-5231-0612
  7. Philip R Corlett

    Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, United States
    For correspondence
    philip.corlett@yale.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-5368-1992

Funding

NIMH (R01MH12887)

  • Philip R Corlett

NIMH (R21MH120799-01)

  • Stephanie Mary Groman
  • Philip R Corlett

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Ethics

Animal experimentation: This study was performed in strict accordance with the recommendations in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health. All of the animals were handled according to approved institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) at Yale University

Human subjects: Experiments were conducted at Yale University and the Connecticut Mental Health Center (New Haven, CT) in strict accordance with Yale University's Human Investigation Committee and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Informed consent was provided by all research participants (Yale HIC# 2000022111: Beliefs and Personality Traits)

Reviewing Editor

  1. Geoffrey Schoenbaum, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: February 24, 2020
  2. Accepted: May 22, 2020
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: May 26, 2020 (version 1)
  4. Accepted Manuscript updated: May 27, 2020 (version 2)
  5. Version of Record published: June 30, 2020 (version 3)
  6. Version of Record updated: July 7, 2020 (version 4)

Copyright

© 2020, Reed et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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