Neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder, have been intensively investigated at the neural, cognitive, and behavioral levels, but the accumulated knowledge remains fragmented. In particular, developmental learning aspects of symptoms and interactions with the physical environment remain largely unexplored in computational modeling studies, although a leading computational theory has posited associations between psychiatric symptoms and an unusual estimation of information uncertainty (precision), which is an essential aspect of the real world and is estimated through learning processes. Here, we propose a mechanistic explanation that unifies the disparate observations via a hierarchical predictive coding and developmental learning framework, which is demonstrated in experiments using a neural network-controlled robot. The results show that, through the developmental learning process, homogeneous intrinsic neuronal excitability at the neural level induced via self-organization changes at the information processing level, such as hyper sensory precision and overfitting to sensory noise. These changes led to multifaceted alterations at the behavioral level, such as inflexibility, reduced generalization, and motor clumsiness. In addition, these behavioral alterations were accompanied by fluctuating neural activity and excessive development of synaptic connections. These findings might bridge various levels of understandings in autism spectrum and other neurodevelopmental disorders and provide insights into the disease processes underlying observed behaviors and brain activities in individual patients. This study shows the potential of neurorobotics frameworks for modeling how psychiatric disorders arise from dynamic interactions among the brain, body, and uncertain environments.
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