The relevance of dynamic belief updating to emerging psychopathology during adolescence
Prof. Dr. Anja Riesel
Prof. Dr. Tania Lincoln
Adolescence is a transitional period characterized by orientation towards peers, neural reorganization and increased neural plasticity in key brain structures for evidence accumulation and dynamic belief updating (DynBU). The concomitant neurocognitive and environmental changes render adolescents vulnerable to developing mental health conditions. Unsurprisingly thus, many major mental disorders begin during adolescence.
This project aims to increase our understanding of the role of DynBU in interaction with social influences on the development of psychopathology in adolescence. To reach this aim, we will examine DynBU and its underlying neurocognitive mechanisms in combination with contextual factors. We will test for the predictive value of alterations of DynBU on core psychopathological dimensions that emerge during adolescence.
A core hypothesis is that, compared to adults, the neurocognitive mechanisms of DynBU in adolescence will reflect giving stronger-than-normative weight to newly encountered observations and that this higher responsiveness to environmental change increases vulnerability to the development of psychopathology if adolescents are exposed to detrimental environments.
We plan to recruit large samples of adolescents and adults who will undergo different variants of the change-point task used in the Research Unit. Computational parameters of DynBU and psychophysiological parameters will be measured. Experience sampling will be used to assess real-life social and reward contexts between the sessions over the course of one week. To examine the predictive validity of the neurocognitive indicators of DynBU for psychopathology, the mental status of our participants will be re-assessed after 6, 12 and 18 months.
We expect the results to provide important insight into the relationship between DynBU and emerging psychopathology during adolescence and promise to offer novel starting points for preventive interventions.