Hallucinations both in and out of context: An active inference account.

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Hallucinations both in and out of context: An active inference account.

PLoS One. 2019;14(8):e0212379

Authors: Benrimoh D, Parr T, Adams RA, Friston K

Hallucinations, including auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH), occur in both the healthy population and in psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia (often developing after a prodromal period). In addition, hallucinations can be in-context (they can be consistent with the environment, such as when one hallucinates the end of a sentence that has been repeated many times), or out-of-context (such as the bizarre hallucinations associated with schizophrenia). In previous work, we introduced a model of hallucinations as false (positive) inferences based on a (Markov decision process) formulation of active inference. In this work, we extend this model to include content-to disclose the computational mechanisms behind in- and out-of-context hallucinations. In active inference, sensory information is used to disambiguate alternative hypotheses about the causes of sensations. Sensory information is balanced against prior beliefs, and when this balance is tipped in the favor of prior beliefs, hallucinations can occur. We show that in-context hallucinations arise when (simulated) subjects cannot use sensory information to correct prior beliefs about hearing a voice, but beliefs about content (i.e. the sequential order of a sentence) remain accurate. When hallucinating subjects also have inaccurate beliefs about state transitions, out-of-context hallucinations occur; i.e. their hallucinated speech content is disordered. Note that out-of-context hallucinations in this setting does not refer to inference about context, but rather to false perceptual inference that emerges when the confidence in-or precision of-sensory evidence is reduced. Furthermore, subjects with inaccurate beliefs about state transitions but an intact ability to use sensory information do not hallucinate and are reminiscent of prodromal patients. This work demonstrates the different computational mechanisms that may underlie the spectrum of hallucinatory experience-from the healthy population to psychotic states.

PMID: 31430277 [PubMed - in process]