Delusions and the role of beliefs in perceptual inference

J Neurosci. 2013 Aug 21;33(34):13701-12. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1778-13.2013.


Delusions are unfounded yet tenacious beliefs and a symptom of psychotic disorder. Varying degrees of delusional ideation are also found in the healthy population. Here, we empirically validated a neurocognitive model that explains both the formation and the persistence of delusional beliefs in terms of altered perceptual inference. In a combined behavioral and functional neuroimaging study in healthy participants, we used ambiguous visual stimulation to probe the relationship between delusion-proneness and the effect of learned predictions on perception. Delusional ideation was associated with less perceptual stability, but a stronger belief-induced bias on perception, paralleled by enhanced functional connectivity between frontal areas that encoded beliefs and sensory areas that encoded perception. These findings suggest that weakened lower-level predictions that result in perceptual instability are implicated in the emergence of delusional beliefs. In contrast, stronger higher-level predictions that sculpt perception into conformity with beliefs might contribute to the tenacious persistence of delusional beliefs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Culture*
  • Delusions / complications*
  • Delusions / psychology
  • Eye Movements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Oxygen
  • Perceptual Disorders / complications*
  • Perceptual Disorders / pathology
  • Perceptual Disorders / psychology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Visual Pathways / blood supply
  • Visual Pathways / pathology
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen