The contemporary understanding of psychiatric disorders typically consists of a vast but often poorly interrelated set of facts and hypotheses that fail to coalesce into an integrated whole. This situation is due, in part, to the social dynamics in the scientific fields that study psychiatric disorders; it is, however, also due to the absence of rigorous theoretical tools that support the development of a more integrative understanding. This talk will show how theoretical tools from computational psychiatry can foster such integrative understanding, using Tourette syndrome (TS) as an illustrative example. Specifically, the talk will show how a computational understanding of the functions of dopamine, together with the likely nature of dopaminergic dysfunction in TS revealed in molecular-imaging studies, can provide an integrated understanding of the mechanisms of action of the various medications used to treat TS, the time course of the response to those medications, the findings of increased reward and habit learning in TS, and a vast array of functional and structural imaging findings in TS, while simultaneously explaining how and why tics arise and are expressed. This approach, combining formal rigor with substantial explanatory and predictive power, holds the promise to bring to psychiatry what has undoubtedly been one of the key drivers of success in fields such as physics (and, indeed, in the remarkable development of our technological society).
1. Understand how computational models can be used as theoretical tools to provide rigorous, integrative accounts of psychiatric disorders.
2. Understand how a computational understanding of the functions of dopamine, considered in conjunction with the likely nature of dopaminergic disturbances in Tourette syndrome, provides a cohesive explanation for a very broad range of findings in Tourette syndrome.