• Wed, Oct 9th 2019 at 15:00 - 16:00 UTC (Other timezones)
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Most psychiatric theories are “verbal models:” narrative explanations of psychiatric phenomena. Because of the vagaries of language, these theories are vulnerable to hidden assumptions and contradictions. Moreover, the imprecision of these theories makes them difficult to evaluate as they are rarely subjected to significant risk of refutation. As a result, psychiatric theories have a tendency to stagnate, remaining neither fully corroborated nor refuted. In this talk, I will propose that computational models can play a critical role in moving psychiatry toward better theory development. I will begin by reviewing the importance of formal theory in scientific research. I will then review three ways in which computational models facilitate theory development: (a) they identify what remains unknown in the theory, thereby guiding future empirical research; (b) they facilitate transparent and cumulative development of psychiatric theories across researchers; and (c) they allow researchers to simulate the behavior implied by the theory, thereby providing a tool for evaluating what the theory can explain and how well it accounts for findings from empirical research. Throughout, I will focus on the example of psychiatric theories of Panic Disorder and will illustrate the advantages of computational models using a recently developed model of Panic Disorder as a non-linear dynamical system.

Donald Robinaugh
Clinical Fellow in Psychology
Harvard Medical School
Massachusetts General Hospital
Department of Psychiatry
1 Bowdoin Square, Room 644
Boston, MA 02114

Donald Robinaugh – Computational Modeling as a Tool for Theory Development