Neurodevelopmental disorders are characterized by heterogeneous and non-specific nature of their clinical symptoms. In particular, hyper- and hypo-reactivity to sensory stimuli are diagnostic features of autism spectrum disorder and are reported across many neurodevelopmental disorders. However, computational mechanisms underlying the unusual paradoxical behaviors remain unclear. In this study, using a robot controlled by a hierarchical recurrent neural network model with predictive processing and learning mechanism, we simulated how functional disconnection altered the learning process and subsequent behavioral reactivity to environmental change. The results show that, through the learning process, long-range functional disconnection between distinct network levels could simultaneously lower the precision of sensory information and higher-level prediction. The alteration caused a robot to exhibit sensory-dominated and sensory-ignoring behaviors ascribed to sensory hyper- and hypo-reactivity, respectively. As long-range functional disconnection became more severe, a frequency shift from hyporeactivity to hyperreactivity was observed, paralleling an early sign of autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, local functional disconnection at the level of sensory processing similarly induced hyporeactivity due to low sensory precision. These findings suggest a computational explanation for paradoxical sensory behaviors in neurodevelopmental disorders, such as coexisting hyper- and hypo-reactivity to sensory stimulus. A neurorobotics approach may be useful for bridging various levels of understanding in neurodevelopmental disorders and providing insights into mechanisms underlying complex clinical symptoms.Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.
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