Stronger Top-Down and Weaker Bottom-Up Frontotemporal Connections during Sensory Learning Are Associated with Severity of Psychotic Phenomena

Ilvana Dzafic, Kit M. Larsen, Hayley Darke, Holly Pertile, Olivia Carter, Suresh Sundram, Marta I. Garrido

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Recent theories in computational psychiatry propose that unusual perceptual experiences and delusional beliefs may emerge as a consequence of aberrant inference and disruptions in sensory learning. The current study investigates these theories and examines the alterations that are specific to schizophrenia spectrum disorders vs those that occur as psychotic phenomena intensify, regardless of diagnosis. We recruited 66 participants: 22 schizophrenia spectrum inpatients, 22 nonpsychotic inpatients, and 22 nonclinical controls. Participants completed the reversal oddball task with volatility manipulated. We recorded neural responses with electroencephalography and measured behavioral errors to inferences on sound probabilities. Furthermore, we explored neural dynamics using dynamic causal modeling (DCM). Attenuated prediction errors (PEs) were specifically observed in the schizophrenia spectrum, with reductions in mismatch negativity in stable, and P300 in volatile, contexts. Conversely, aberrations in connectivity were observed across all participants as psychotic phenomena increased. DCM revealed that impaired sensory learning behavior was associated with decreased intrinsic connectivity in the left primary auditory cortex and right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG); connectivity in the latter was also reduced with greater severity of psychotic experiences. Moreover, people who experienced more hallucinations and psychotic-like symptoms had decreased bottom-up and increased top-down frontotemporal connectivity, respectively. The findings provide evidence that reduced PEs are specific to the schizophrenia spectrum, but deficits in brain connectivity are aligned on the psychosis continuum. Along the continuum, psychotic experiences were related to an aberrant interplay between top-down, bottom-up, and intrinsic connectivity in the IFG during sensory uncertainty. These findings provide novel insights into psychosis neurocomputational pathophysiology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1039-1047
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • effective connectivity
  • predictive coding
  • psychosis continuum
  • schizophrenia spectrum
  • sensory inference

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