Mental health disorders pose a significant challenge to society. The Bayesian perspective on the mind offers unique insights and tools that may help address a variety of mental health conditions. Psychopathological dysfunctions are often connected to altered predictive and active inference processes, in which cognitive and physiological pathogenic beliefs shape the clinical condition and its symptoms. However, there is a lack of general empirical models that integrate cognitive beliefs, physiological experience, and symptoms in healthy and clinical populations. In this study, we examined the relationship between altered predictive mechanisms, interoception, and pathological bodily distortions in healty individuals and in individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa (AN). AN patients (N=15) completed a Virtual Reality Full-Body Illusion along with interoceptive tasks twice: at hospital admission during an acute symptomatological phase (Time 1) and after a 12-week outpatient clinical weight-restoring rehabilitative program (Time 2). Results were compared to a healthy control group. Our findings indicated that higher levels of interoceptive metacognitive awareness were associated with a greater embodiment. However, unlike in healthy participants, AN patients' interoceptive metacognition was linked to embodiment even in multisensory mismatching (asynchronous) conditions. In addition, unlike in healthy participants, higher interoceptive metacognition in AN patients was related to prior abnormal bodily distortions during the acute symptomatology phase. Prediction errors in bodily estimates predicted posterior bodily estimate distortions after the illusion, but while this relationship was only significant in the synchronous condition in healthy participants, there was no significant difference between synchronous and asynchronous conditions in AN patients. Despite the success of the rehabilitation program in restoring some dysfunctional patterns in the AN group, prediction errors and posterior estimate distortions were present at hospital discharge. Our findings suggest that individuals with AN prioritize interoceptive metacognitive processes (i.e., confidence in their own perceived sensations rather than their actual perceptions), disregarding bottom-up bodily inputs in favour of their prior altered top-down beliefs. Moreover, even if the rehabilitative program partially mitigated these alterations, the pathological condition impaired the patients' ability to coherently update their prior erroneous expectations with real-time multisensory bottom-up bodily information, possibly locking the patients in the experience of a distorted prior top-down belief. These results suggest new therapeutic perspectives and introduce the framework of regenerative virtual therapy (RVT), which aims at utilizing technology-based somatic modification techniques to restructure the maladaptive priors underlying a pathological condition.

Di Lernia, D., Serino, S., Tuena, C., Cacciatore, C., Polli, N., Riva, G., Mental health meets computational neuroscience: A predictive Bayesian account of the relationship between interoception and multisensory bodily illusions in anorexia nervosa, <<INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CLINICAL AND HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY>>, 2023; 23 (4): 100383-N/A. [doi:10.1016/j.ijchp.2023.100383] [https://hdl.handle.net/10807/228638]

Mental health meets computational neuroscience: A predictive Bayesian account of the relationship between interoception and multisensory bodily illusions in anorexia nervosa

Di Lernia, Daniele;Serino, Silvia;Tuena, Cosimo;Riva, Giuseppe
2023

Abstract

Mental health disorders pose a significant challenge to society. The Bayesian perspective on the mind offers unique insights and tools that may help address a variety of mental health conditions. Psychopathological dysfunctions are often connected to altered predictive and active inference processes, in which cognitive and physiological pathogenic beliefs shape the clinical condition and its symptoms. However, there is a lack of general empirical models that integrate cognitive beliefs, physiological experience, and symptoms in healthy and clinical populations. In this study, we examined the relationship between altered predictive mechanisms, interoception, and pathological bodily distortions in healty individuals and in individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa (AN). AN patients (N=15) completed a Virtual Reality Full-Body Illusion along with interoceptive tasks twice: at hospital admission during an acute symptomatological phase (Time 1) and after a 12-week outpatient clinical weight-restoring rehabilitative program (Time 2). Results were compared to a healthy control group. Our findings indicated that higher levels of interoceptive metacognitive awareness were associated with a greater embodiment. However, unlike in healthy participants, AN patients' interoceptive metacognition was linked to embodiment even in multisensory mismatching (asynchronous) conditions. In addition, unlike in healthy participants, higher interoceptive metacognition in AN patients was related to prior abnormal bodily distortions during the acute symptomatology phase. Prediction errors in bodily estimates predicted posterior bodily estimate distortions after the illusion, but while this relationship was only significant in the synchronous condition in healthy participants, there was no significant difference between synchronous and asynchronous conditions in AN patients. Despite the success of the rehabilitation program in restoring some dysfunctional patterns in the AN group, prediction errors and posterior estimate distortions were present at hospital discharge. Our findings suggest that individuals with AN prioritize interoceptive metacognitive processes (i.e., confidence in their own perceived sensations rather than their actual perceptions), disregarding bottom-up bodily inputs in favour of their prior altered top-down beliefs. Moreover, even if the rehabilitative program partially mitigated these alterations, the pathological condition impaired the patients' ability to coherently update their prior erroneous expectations with real-time multisensory bottom-up bodily information, possibly locking the patients in the experience of a distorted prior top-down belief. These results suggest new therapeutic perspectives and introduce the framework of regenerative virtual therapy (RVT), which aims at utilizing technology-based somatic modification techniques to restructure the maladaptive priors underlying a pathological condition.
2023
Inglese
Di Lernia, D., Serino, S., Tuena, C., Cacciatore, C., Polli, N., Riva, G., Mental health meets computational neuroscience: A predictive Bayesian account of the relationship between interoception and multisensory bodily illusions in anorexia nervosa, <<INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CLINICAL AND HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY>>, 2023; 23 (4): 100383-N/A. [doi:10.1016/j.ijchp.2023.100383] [https://hdl.handle.net/10807/228638]
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