A Computational Analysis of Abnormal Belief Updating Processes and Their Association With Psychotic Experiences and Childhood Trauma in a UK Birth Cohort.pdf (614.37 kB)
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A computational analysis of abnormal belief updating processes and their association with psychotic experiences and childhood trauma in a UK birth cohort

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posted on 2022-05-18, 16:03 authored by Jazz Croft, Christoph Teufel, Jon Heron, Paul C Fletcher, Anthony S David, Glyn Lewis, Michael Moutoussis, Thomas HB FitzGerald, David EJ Linden, Andrew Thompson, Peter B Jones, Mary CannonMary Cannon, Peter Holmans, Rick A Adams, Stan Zammit

Background: Psychotic experiences emerge from abnormalities in perception and belief formation and occur more commonly in those experiencing childhood trauma. However, which precise aspects of belief formation are atypical in psychosis is not well understood. We used a computational modeling approach to characterize belief updating in young adults in the general population, examine their relationship with psychotic outcomes and trauma, and determine the extent to which they mediate the trauma-psychosis relationship.

Methods: We used data from 3360 individuals from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children birth cohort who completed assessments for psychotic outcomes, depression, anxiety, and two belief updating tasks at age 24 and had data available on traumatic events assessed from birth to late adolescence. Unadjusted and adjusted regression and counterfactual mediation methods were used for the analyses.

Results: Basic behavioral measures of belief updating (draws-to-decision and disconfirmatory updating) were not associated with psychotic experiences. However, computational modeling revealed an association between increased decision noise with both psychotic experiences and trauma exposure, although <3% of the trauma-psychotic experience association was mediated by decision noise. Belief updating measures were also associated with intelligence and sociodemographic characteristics, confounding most of the associations with psychotic experiences. There was little evidence that belief updating parameters were differentially associated with delusions compared with hallucinations or that they were differentially associated with psychotic outcomes compared with depression or anxiety.

Conclusions: These findings challenge the hypothesis that atypical belief updating mechanisms (as indexed by the computational models and behavioral measures we used) underlie the development of psychotic phenomena.


The UK Medical Research Council (MRC), Wellcome (Grant No. 217065/Z/19/Z)

MRC Grant No. MR/M006727/1

MRC Skills Development Fellow (Grant No. MR/S007806/1)

Wellcome Trust Investigator Award (Grant No. 49 206368/Z/17/Z)

Bernard Wolfe Health Neuroscience Fund

Noble Foundation

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) University College London Hospital Biomedical Research Centre (BRC)

NIHR Bristol BRC at University Hospitals Bristol, Weston NHS Foundation Trust, and the University of Bristol



The original article is available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/

Published Citation

Croft J. et al. A computational analysis of abnormal belief updating processes and their association with psychotic experiences and childhood trauma in a UK birth cohort. Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. 2021:S2451-9022(21)00350-5

Publication Date

22 December 2021

PubMed ID



  • Beaumont Hospital
  • Psychiatry

Research Area

  • Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders


Elsevier BV


  • Published Version (Version of Record)