A Bayesian computational model reveals a failure to adapt interoceptive precision estimates across depression, anxiety, eating, and substance use disorders
PLoS Computational Biology
Recent neurocomputational theories have hypothesized that abnormalities in prior beliefs and/or the precision-weighting of afferent interoceptive signals may facilitate the transdiagnostic emergence of psychopathology. Specifically, it has been suggested that, in certain psychiatric disorders, interoceptive processing mechanisms either over-weight prior beliefs or under-weight signals from the viscera (or both), leading to a failure to accurately update beliefs about the body. However, this has
... . However, this has not been directly tested empirically. To evaluate the potential roles of prior beliefs and interoceptive precision in this context, we fit a Bayesian computational model to behavior in a transdiagnostic patient sample during an interoceptive awareness (heartbeat tapping) task. Modelling revealed that, during an interoceptive perturbation condition (inspiratory breath-holding during heartbeat tapping), healthy individuals (N = 52) assigned greater precision to ascending cardiac signals than individuals with symptoms of anxiety (N = 15), depression (N = 69), co-morbid depression/anxiety (N = 153), substance use disorders (N = 131), and eating disorders (N = 14)–who failed to increase their precision estimates from resting levels. In contrast, we did not find strong evidence for differences in prior beliefs. These results provide the first empirical computational modeling evidence of a selective dysfunction in adaptive interoceptive processing in psychiatric conditions, and lay the groundwork for future studies examining how reduced interoceptive precision influences body regulation and interoceptively-guided decision-making.