Dynamic belief updating in the anxiety phenotype: developmental aspects and salience context
Prof. Dr. Ulrike Lüken
Prof. Dr. Julia Asbrand
Dr. Rasmus Bruckner
In a world full of ever-changing dangers, the ability to learn is incredibly important for our survival. Many situations are uncertain because we cannot always predict what will happen. For example, we do not know how a colleague will react if we refuse to help with a task. To help us deal with this uncertainty, our brain constantly updates our beliefs and knowledge. It tries to strike a balance between learning cautiously and rapidly, especially when it comes to dealing with potential threats.
This research project is all about studying how people learn, both in terms of their behavior and their brain activity, when faced with these uncertain situations. We are particularly interested in understanding how this learning process works throughout a person's life, that is, in adolescents and adults, and how it might be different in people who have anxiety disorders. We are also looking into whether psychotherapy can change how people learn in these situations.
To create a learning task that is relevant to anxiety disorders, we came up with something called the "Predator Task". Participants in our study will undergo various assessments; for example, we will be tracking their eye movements and using brain scans to see what is happening in their brains while they do this task.
This project fits well with our research goals, especially when it comes to understanding how age and development, as well as different contexts affect our ability to deal with uncertainty. We are looking at this from childhood all the way to adulthood, which helps us make comparisons across different stages of life and in people with different anxiety disorders. Ultimately, our work could lead to new and better ways to treat anxiety disorders by focusing on how we handle uncertain situations.