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Describe how neuropsychological and attributional processes are involved in the evolution and maintenance of delusional beliefs. Illustrate your answer with reference to the relevant empirical literature.

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Introduction

Describe how neuropsychological and attributional processes are involved in the evolution and maintenance of delusional beliefs. Illustrate your answer with reference to the relevant empirical literature. Student 9958858 Word Count 2600 Delusional beliefs are a common positive symptom of schizophrenia, among other disorders. Neuropsychological and attributional processes are involved significantly in the evolution and maintenance of delusional beliefs and subsequent studies will enhance this view. The argument is which of these views better explains the prevalence of delusions and their evolution and specifically which aspect allows the preservation of these beliefs. Delusional beliefs have been defined as a false perception (Frith 1987). The term belief has obtained additional meanings implied by the ideas that beliefs cause behaviour and they are attributes of people. In her book, Boyle (1996) suggests that there are several characteristics, which are necessary for the perception to be endorsed as a delusional belief. The foremost idea is falsity, the presence of which determines the delusional status of the belief in question. The belief must also be held with absolute conviction that is incorrigible, it is often preoccupying, it is usually absurd and it is not culturally shared. Delusional distress can fluctuate over time and can be reduced by specific cognitive behaviour interventions. Delusions are therefore now conceptualised as dimensional entities rather than categorical ones, lying at the extreme end of a belief continuum. According to one view, Maher (1974), delusions arise when a patient applies normal logic to an abnormal experience or perception. ...read more.

Middle

A study by Corcoran and Frith (1996) demonstrated that deluded patients frequently had difficulties in theory of mind tests, such as the ability to infer the reasoning behind the sentence 'its hot in here' - which should have been taken to mean 'open the window'. However, this study was flawed by the failure to match the patient and comparison groups for IQ, and as this was a theory of mind test, should not have been overlooked. A quantity of research to support this theory has been put forward but the majority has been confounded by measures such as current IQ and memory, as the information processing load for ill patients was to great. However, it is still possible to draw tenable conclusions from the data, there still remains a degree of poor performance by schizophrenic subgroups which are too large to dismiss as memory and IQ problems alone. Only two studies have provided indisputable support for a theory of mind hypothesis in subjects with persecutory delusions (Frith 1995, Frith 1996, cited in Blackwood) and even these lean to the angle of psychomotor poverty. Paranoid patients have demonstrated a consistent reasoning bias in one particular area, that of jumping to conclusions in tests of probabilistic reasoning. Bayesian models specify whether a subject's confidence in a current belief should increase or decrease according to the value of new evidence received, (Hemsley & Garrety 1986). This study used Bayes' decision-making theorem as a theoretical basis for examining reasoning biases in deluded subjects. ...read more.

Conclusion

Perseverative errors on the WSCT are known to covary with symptoms displayed by frontal lobe patients. Another clue about the brain systems underlying the positive symptoms such as delusional beliefs comes from the beneficial effects of dopamine blocking drugs. The action of these drugs gives an indication to the maintenance of delusional beliefs. Treatment with these drugs can markedly reduce the severity of positive symptoms but has little or no effect on negative symptoms. Dopamine is involved with the creation of willed action. It has been suggested by Frith (1987) that a reduction of domaminergic activity, as happens in Parkinson's disease, or after treatment with antipsychotics should reduce the ability of the subject to generate willed actions. In other words, dopamine-blocking drugs should if anything, intensify negative symptoms. Positive symptoms on the other hand occur because patients act without being aware of any intention to act, as suggested earlier. The patients have abnormal experiences because of the discrepancy between what they are doing and their awareness of what they intended to do. This analysis is based on the effects of a medical drug, which could give us a false idea surrounding the neuropsychological processes, which underlie the formation of delusions, as the brain is a very misunderstood entity. In conclusion, it is only correct to summarise that delusions are still a complex symptom and the processes that lead to their formation are numerous in suggestion. However, some evidence is more concrete than others, which is merely circumstantial. The evolution and maintenance of delusional beliefs can be concluded to be a result of numerous events neuropsychological and attributional, yet more research world clarify the reasoning. ...read more.

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