The NIMH Director’s Innovation Speaker Series: Decision-Making and Computational Psychiatry: An Explanatory and Pragmatic Perspective
NIMH Division of Extramural Activities
On November 12, Dr. Martin Paulus, Scientific Director and President of the Laureate Institute for Brain Research (LIBR) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was the guest speaker in the NIMH Director’s Innovation Speaker Series, which focuses on innovation, invention, and scientific discovery.
Dr. Paulus discussed whether computational approaches to psychiatry – using computer models to describe the relationship between the brain's neurobiology, its environment, and mental symptoms – can be useful to better develop and rigorously test an explanatory basis for mental disorders. His research examines how to use neuroscience-based measurements to identify modifiable treatment targets and generate valid predictions that can be useful for clinicians.
Being able to understand whether an action leads to an outcome by chance, or because of statistical regularity, profoundly affects how well people can adapt their behavior to their environment. Prior studies have shown that people with anxiety may not appropriately differentiate between these situations. Dr. Paulus' research demonstrates that the inability to discriminate between chance and causality, and how this affects behavior may contribute to symptom maintenance and/or worsening. This may be an important factor underlying anxiety disorders and potentially lead to the development of improved treatments.
Dr. Paulus is the Deputy Editor of JAMA Psychiatry and serves on several editorial boards of top-tier psychiatric journals. He has served on numerous NIH and international study sections. At LIBR, Dr. Paulus focuses on using neuroscience approaches to develop better assessments for diagnosis and prognosis of mental health problems and to develop novel interventions based on an increased understanding of the underlying neuroscience.
NIMH established the Director’s Innovation Speaker Series to encourage broad, interdisciplinary thinking in the development of scientific initiatives and programs, and to press for theoretical leaps in science over the continuation of incremental thinking. Innovation speakers are encouraged to describe their work from the perspective of breaking through existing boundaries and developing successful new ideas, as well as working outside their initial area of expertise in ways that have pushed their fields forward. We encourage discussions of the meaning of innovation, creativity, breakthroughs, and paradigm-shifting.