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Author: Philipp Sterzer (116)


Jan
2018

Predictive coding theories state an aberrant weighting of prior beliefs and present sensory information as a core computational pathology in psychosis. Specifically, it has been proposed that the influence of prior beliefs which attenuate improbable sensory information is weakened, resulting in an overweighing of this potentially misleading information. However, it is currently unclear whether this alteration is specific to perceptual processes or whether it represents a more pervasive deficit that extends to cognitive processes.

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Mar
2018

Chronic depression (CD) is strongly associated with childhood maltreatment, which has been proposed to lead to inefficient coping styles that are characterized by abnormal affective responsiveness and dysfunctional cognitive attitudes. However, while this notion forms an important basis for psychotherapeutic strategies in the treatment of CD, there is still little direct empirical evidence for a role of altered affective and cognitive reactivity in CD. The present study therefore experimentally investigated affective and cognitive reactivity to two forms of negative mood induction in CD patients versus a healthy control sample (HC).

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Jan
2018

The influence of Pavlovian conditioned stimuli on ongoing behavior may contribute to explaining how alcohol cues stimulate drug seeking and intake. Using a Pavlovian-instrumental transfer task, we investigated the effects of alcohol-related cues on approach behavior (i.e.

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Dec
2017

The phenomenon of bistable perception, in which perception alternates spontaneously despite constant sensory stimulation, has been particularly useful in probing the neural bases of conscious perception. The study of such bistability requires access to the observer's perceptual dynamics, which is usually achieved via active report. This report, however, constitutes a confounding factor in the study of conscious perception and can also be biased in the context of certain experimental manipulations.

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Dec
1969

In recent years, various therapeutic interventions have been established that extended behavior and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) by so-called "third-wave" strategies. In order to address specific therapeutic challenges in certain subgroups of patients who do not sufficiently respond to "classical CBT," some of these third-wave strategies put particular emphasis on therapist self-disclosure. This article highlights therapeutic self-disclosure as a means to address interpersonal problems by comparing three third-wave strategies: (a) acceptance and change strategies as used in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), (b) the concept of "limited reparenting" as used in Schema Therapy (ST), and (c) disciplined personal involvement as used in the Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy (CBASP).

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Dec
2017

The premature aging hypothesis of alcohol dependence proposes that the neurobiological and behavioural deficits in individuals with alcohol dependence are analogous to those of chronological aging. However, to date no systematic neurobiological evidence for this hypothesis has been provided. To test the hypothesis, 119 alcohol-dependent subjects and 97 age- and gender-matched healthy control subjects underwent structural MRI.

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Jan
2018

Anticipatory anxiety and harm avoidance are essential features of panic disorder (PD) and may involve deficits in the reward system of the brain, in particular in the ventral striatum. While neuroimaging studies on PD have focused on fearful and negative affective stimulus processing, no investigations have directly addressed deficits in reward and loss anticipation. To determine whether the ventral striatum shows abnormal neural activity in PD patients during anticipation of loss or gain, an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment using a monetary incentive delay task was employed in 10 patients with PD and 10 healthy controls.

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Nov
2017

Viewing of ambiguous stimuli can lead to bistable perception alternating between the possible percepts. During continuous presentation of ambiguous stimuli, percept changes occur as single events, whereas during intermittent presentation of ambiguous stimuli, percept changes occur at more or less regular intervals either as single events or bursts. Response patterns can be highly variable and have been reported to show systematic differences between patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls.

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Oct
2017

Atypical responses to direct gaze are one of the most characteristic hallmarks of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The cause and mechanism underlying this phenomenon, however, have remained unknown. Here we investigated whether the atypical responses to eye gaze in autism spectrum disorder is dependent on the conscious perception of others' faces.

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Dec
1969

The human brain has the capacity to integrate various sources of information and continuously adapts our behavior according to situational needs in order to allow a healthy functioning. Emotion-cognition interactions are a key example for such integrative processing. However, the neuronal correlates investigating the effects of emotion on cognition remain to be explored and replication studies are needed.

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Sep
2017

Lithium augmentation of antidepressants is an effective strategy in treatment-resistant depression. The proteohormone ghrelin is thought to be involved in the pathophysiology of depression. The purpose of this study was to investigate the association of treatment response with the course of ghrelin levels during lithium augmentation.

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Jan
2018

A given pattern of optical stimulation can arise from countless possible real-world sources, creating a dilemma for vision: What in the world actually gives rise to the current pattern? This dilemma was pointed out centuries ago by the astronomer and mathematician Ibn Al-Haytham and was forcefully restated 150 years ago when von Helmholtz characterized perception as unconscious inference. To buttress his contention, von Helmholtz cited multistable perception: recurring changes in perception despite unchanging sensory input. Recent neuroscientific studies have exploited multistable perception to identify brain areas uniquely activated in association with these perceptual changes, but the specific roles of those activations remain controversial.

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Jun
2017

Breaking Continuous Flash Suppression (bCFS) has been adopted as an appealing means to study human visual awareness, but the literature is beclouded by inconsistent and contradictory results. Although previous reviews have focused chiefly on design pitfalls and instances of false reasoning, we show in this study that the choice of analysis pathway can have severe effects on the statistical output when applied to bCFS data. Using a representative dataset designed to address a specific controversy in the realm of language processing under bCFS, namely whether psycholinguistic variables affect access to awareness, we present a range of analysis methods based on real instances in the published literature, and indicate how each approach affects the perceived outcome.

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Jul
2017

Visual working memory (VWM) is used to maintain visual information available for subsequent goal-directed behavior. The content of VWM has been shown to affect the behavioral response to concurrent visual input, suggesting that visual representations originating from VWM and from sensory input draw upon a shared neural substrate (i.e.

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May
2017

In bistable vision, subjective perception wavers between two interpretations of a constant ambiguous stimulus. This dissociation between conscious perception and sensory stimulation has motivated various empirical studies on the neural correlates of bistable perception, but the neurocomputational mechanism behind endogenous perceptual transitions has remained elusive. Here, we recurred to a generic Bayesian framework of predictive coding and devised a model that casts endogenous perceptual transitions as a consequence of prediction errors emerging from residual evidence for the suppressed percept.

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Nov
2017

Mixed states in affective disorders represent a particular challenge in clinical routine, characterized by a complicated course of treatment and a worse treatment response.
Clinical features of mixed states and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria are presented and critical discussed. We then performed a systematic review using the terms 'bipolar', 'mixed' and 'randomized' to evaluate current treatment options.

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Apr
2017

According to current concepts, major depressive disorder is strongly related to dysfunctional neural processing of motivational information, entailing impairments in reinforcement learning. While computational modelling can reveal the precise nature of neural learning signals, it has not been used to study learning-related neural dysfunctions in unmedicated patients with major depressive disorder so far. We thus aimed at comparing the neural coding of reward and punishment prediction errors, representing indicators of neural learning-related processes, between unmedicated patients with major depressive disorder and healthy participants.

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Dec
1969

Positive symptoms of schizophrenia such as delusions and hallucinations are thought to arise from an alteration in predictive mechanisms of the brain. Here, we empirically tested the hypothesis that schizophrenia is associated with an enhanced signalling of higher-level predictions that shape perception into conformity with acquired beliefs. Twenty-one patients with schizophrenia and twenty-eight healthy controls matched for age and gender took part in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment that assessed the effect of an experimental manipulation of cognitive beliefs on the perception of an ambiguous visual motion stimulus.

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Feb
2017

In schizophrenia, processing of self-related stimuli has been shown to be altered. It is unclear whether altered self-processing in schizophrenia is confined to cognitive functions such as self-recognition, or whether it pertains to automatic lower-level perceptual processes. Visual face processing was tested in patients with schizophrenia (n=36) and healthy controls (n=33).

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Dec
1969

Current theories in the framework of hierarchical predictive coding propose that positive symptoms of schizophrenia, such as delusions and hallucinations, arise from an alteration in Bayesian inference, the term inference referring to a process by which learned predictions are used to infer probable causes of sensory data. However, for one particularly striking and frequent symptom of schizophrenia, thought insertion, no plausible account has been proposed in terms of the predictive-coding framework. Here we propose that thought insertion is due to an altered experience of thoughts as coming from "nowhere", as is already indicated by the early 20th century phenomenological accounts by the early Heidelberg School of psychiatry.

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Dec
1969

Efficient threat detection from the environment is critical for survival. Accordingly, fear-conditioned stimuli receive prioritized processing and capture overt and covert attention. However, it is unknown whether eye movements are influenced by unconscious fear-conditioned stimuli.

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Dec
1969

Lissajous figures represent ambiguous structure-from-motion stimuli rotating in depth and have proven to be a versatile tool to explore the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying bistable perception. They are generated by the intersection of two sinusoids with perpendicular axes and increasing phase-shift whose frequency determines the speed of illusory 3D rotation. Recently, we found that Lissajous figures of higher shifting frequencies elicited longer perceptual phase durations and tentatively proposed a "representational momentum" account.

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Dec
1969

As a functional organization principle in cortical visual information processing, the influential 'two visual systems' hypothesis proposes a division of labor between a dorsal "vision-for-action" and a ventral "vision-for-perception" stream. A core assumption of this model is that the two visual streams are differentially involved in visual awareness: ventral stream processing is closely linked to awareness while dorsal stream processing is not. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study with human observers, we directly probed the stimulus-related information encoded in fMRI response patterns in both visual streams as a function of stimulus visibility.

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Nov
2016

Our brain continuously evaluates different perceptual interpretations of the available sensory data in order to enable flexible updates of conscious experience. Individuals' perceptual flexibility can be assessed using ambiguous stimuli that cause our perception to continuously switch between two mutually exclusive interpretations. Neural processes underlying perceptual switching are thought to involve the visual cortex, but also non-sensory brain circuits that have been implicated in cognitive processes, such as frontal and parietal regions.

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Dec
1969

Visual perception is strongly shaped by expectations, but it is poorly understood how such perceptual expectations are learned in our dynamic sensory environment. Here, we applied a Bayesian framework to investigate whether perceptual expectations are continuously updated from different aspects of ongoing experience. In two experiments, human observers performed an associative learning task in which rapidly changing expectations about the appearance of ambiguous stimuli were induced.

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Dec
1969

This review from the International Consortium on Hallucinations Research intends to question the pertinence of the excitatory-to-inhibitory (E/I) imbalance hypothesis as a model for hallucinations. A large number of studies suggest that subtle impairments of the E/I balance are involved in neurological and psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia. Emerging evidence also points to a role of the E/I balance in maintaining stable perceptual representations, suggesting it may be a plausible model for hallucinations.

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May
2016

Moving forward in perceptual decision making.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016 May 13;113(21):5771-3. Epub 2016 May 13.
Philipp Sterzer

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Dec
1969

Schizophrenia is associated with a number of cognitive impairments such as deficient sensory encoding or working memory processing. However, it is largely unclear how dysfunctions on these various levels of cortical processing contribute to alterations of stimulus-specific information representation. To test this, we used a well-established sequential frequency comparison paradigm, in which sensory encoding of vibrotactile stimuli can be assessed via frequency-specific steady-state evoked potentials (SSEPs) over primary somatosensory cortex (S1).

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Dec
1969

Studying psychiatric disorders across nosological boundaries aims at a better understanding of mental disorders by identifying comprehensive signatures of core symptoms. Here, we studied neurobiological correlates of emotion processing in several major psychiatric disorders. We assessed differences between diagnostic groups, and investigated whether there is a psychopathological correlate of emotion processing that transcends disorder categories.

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Mar
2016

It is well established that learning can occur without external feedback, yet normative reinforcement learning theories have difficulties explaining such instances of learning. Here, we propose that human observers are capable of generating their own feedback signals by monitoring internal decision variables. We investigated this hypothesis in a visual perceptual learning task using fMRI and confidence reports as a measure for this monitoring process.

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Dec
1969

Continuous flash suppression (CFS) is an interocular suppression technique that uses high-contrast masks flashed to one eye to prevent conscious perception of images shown to the other eye. It has become widely used due to its strength and prolonged duration of suppression and its nearly deterministic control of suppression onset and offset. Recently, it has been proposed that action-relevant visual processing ascribed to the dorsal stream remains functional, while processing in the ventral stream is completely suppressed, when stimuli are invisible under CFS.

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Jul
2016

Chronic depression poses a particular challenge for the psychiatric and psychotherapeutic care system. Owing to high rates of psychiatric comorbidities and multiple pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatment resistance, novel treatment strategies are urgently required.
In this article, we describe the clinical characteristics of chronic and treatment-resistant depression and review the pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatment options currently available.

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Dec
1969

Unfounded convictions involving beliefs in the paranormal, grandiosity ideas or suspicious thoughts are endorsed at varying degrees among the general population. Here, we investigated the neurobiopsychological basis of the observed inter-individual variability in the propensity toward unfounded beliefs. One hundred two healthy individuals were genotyped for four polymorphisms in the COMT gene (rs6269, rs4633, rs4818, and rs4680, also known as val (158) met) that define common functional haplotypes with substantial impact on synaptic dopamine degradation, completed a questionnaire measuring unfounded beliefs, and took part in a behavioral experiment assessing perceptual inference.

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Sep
2015

Gaze direction and especially direct gaze is a powerful nonverbal cue that plays an important role in social interactions. Here we studied the neural mechanisms underlying the privileged access of direct gaze to visual awareness. We performed functional magnetic resonance imaging in healthy human volunteers who were exposed to faces with direct or averted gaze under continuous flash suppression, thereby manipulating their awareness of the faces.

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Dec
1969

The affective value of a stimulus substantially influences its potency to gain access to awareness. Here, we sought to elucidate the neural mechanisms underlying such affective salience in a combined behavioral and fMRI experiment. Healthy individuals with varying degrees of spider phobia were presented with pictures of spiders and flowers suppressed from view by continuous flash suppression.

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Oct
2015

Direct gaze is a potent non-verbal signal that establishes a communicative connection between two individuals, setting the course for further interactions. Although consciously perceived faces with direct gaze have been shown to capture attention, it is unknown whether an attentional preference for these socially meaningful stimuli exists even in the absence of awareness. In two experiments, we recorded participants' eye movements while they were exposed to faces with direct and averted gaze rendered invisible by interocular suppression.

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Dec
1969

Cognitive theories of depression posit that perception is negatively biased in depressive disorder. Previous studies have provided empirical evidence for this notion, but left open the question whether the negative perceptual bias reflects a stable trait or the current depressive state. Here we investigated the stability of negatively biased perception over time.

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Dec
2015

Although alcohol consumption is linked to increased aggression, its neural correlates have not directly been studied in humans so far. Based on a comprehensive neurobiological model of alcohol-induced aggression, we hypothesized that alcohol-induced aggression would go along with increased amygdala and ventral striatum reactivity and impaired functioning of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) under alcohol. We measured neural and behavioral correlates of alcohol-induced aggression in a provoking vs non-provoking condition with a variant of the Taylor aggression paradigm (TAP) allowing to differentiate between reactive (provoked) and proactive (unprovoked) aggression.

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Aug
2015

The modulation of neural activity in visual cortex is thought to be a key mechanism of visual attention. The investigation of attentional modulation in high-level visual areas, however, is hampered by the lack of clear tuning or contrast response functions. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging study we therefore systematically assessed how small voxel-wise biases in object preference across hundreds of voxels in the lateral occipital complex were affected when attention was directed to objects.

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Jun
2015

Delusions, a core symptom of schizophrenia, are thought to arise from an alteration in predictive coding mechanisms that underlie perceptual inference. Here, we aimed to empirically test the hypothesized link between delusions and perceptual inference.
28 patients with schizophrenia and 32 healthy controls matched for age and gender took part in a behavioral experiment that assessed the influence of stabilizing predictions on perception of an ambiguous visual stimulus.

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May
2016

In detoxified alcohol-dependent patients, alcohol-related stimuli can promote relapse. However, to date, the mechanisms by which contextual stimuli promote relapse have not been elucidated in detail. One hypothesis is that such contextual stimuli directly stimulate the motivation to drink via associated brain regions like the ventral striatum and thus promote alcohol seeking, intake and relapse.

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Mar
2015

Previous research has shown that the identification of visual objects can rely on both view-dependent, holistic as well as view-independent, analytic representation, depending on visual attention. Here, we asked whether the initial conscious detection of objects reveals similar dependencies and may therefore share similar perceptual mechanisms. We used continuous flash suppression to render objects presented in familiar views invisible at the beginning of a trial and recorded the time these target objects needed to break into awareness.

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Dec
1969

Functional neuroimaging has provided evidence for altered function of mesolimbic circuits implicated in reward processing, first and foremost the ventral striatum, in patients with schizophrenia. While such findings based on significant group differences in brain activations can provide important insights into the pathomechanisms of mental disorders, the use of neuroimaging results from standard univariate statistical analysis for individual diagnosis has proven difficult. In this proof of concept study, we tested whether the predictive accuracy for the diagnostic classification of schizophrenia patients vs.

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Dec
1969

Perception is an inferential process, which becomes immediately evident when sensory information is conflicting or ambiguous and thus allows for more than one perceptual interpretation. Thinking the idea of perception as inference through to the end results in a blurring of boundaries between perception and action selection, as perceptual inference implies the construction of a percept as an active process. Here we therefore wondered whether perception shares a key characteristic of action selection, namely that it is shaped by reinforcement learning.

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Feb
2015

A fundamental issue in visual cognition is whether high-level visual areas code objects in a part-based or a view-based (holistic) format. Previous behavioral and neuroimaging studies that examined the viewpoint invariance of object recognition have yielded ambiguous results, providing evidence for either type of representational format. A critical factor distinguishing the two formats could be the availability of attentional resources, as a number of priming studies have found greater viewpoint invariance for attended compared to unattended objects.

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Nov
2014

Studies show that manipulating certain training features in perceptual learning determines the specificity of the improvement. The improvement in abnormal visual processing following training and its generalization to visual acuity, as measured on static clinical charts, can be explained by improved sensitivity or processing speed. Crowding, the inability to recognize objects in a clutter, fundamentally limits conscious visual perception.

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Jan
2015

Recent behavioral and neuroimaging studies using continuous flash suppression (CFS) have suggested that action-related processing in the dorsal visual stream might be independent of perceptual awareness, in line with the "vision-for-perception" versus "vision-for-action" distinction of the influential dual-stream theory. It remains controversial if evidence suggesting exclusive dorsal stream processing of tool stimuli under CFS can be explained by their elongated shape alone or by action-relevant category representations in dorsal visual cortex. To approach this question, we investigated category- and shape-selective functional magnetic resonance imaging-blood-oxygen level-dependent responses in both visual streams using images of faces and tools.

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Apr
2015

Perceptual learning is the improvement in perceptual performance through training or exposure. Here, we used fMRI before and after extensive behavioral training to investigate the effects of perceptual learning on the recognition of objects under challenging viewing conditions. Objects belonged either to trained or untrained categories.

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