Tuesday, August 9

Create the first maps of human hallucinations

Create the first maps of human hallucinations

Researchers at the University of Leicester, in the United Kingdom, have developed body maps that reflect the experiences of people with psychosis during episodes of hallucinations. The feelings were located in specific areas of the body and even in the whole of it, involving emotions such as confusion, fear and frustration.

Psychosis and hallucinations

The psychosis it is a mental disorder that is characterized mainly by a disconnection from reality. This pathology can be the result of a psychiatric disorder, as in the case of schizophrenia. However, it can also be motivated by the negative impact on health of drugs or other substances.

Common symptoms of psychosis include episodes of delusions and hallucinations, incoherence when speaking or excessive nervousness. Generally, the person suffering from this condition is usually not aware of their behavior. So far, the treatments that are developed to try to appease or reverse these conditions combine drugs with psychological therapy.

Meanwhile, hallucinations are false perceptions of objects or events, being manifestations of a sensory nature. In other words, they mark that a person lives as real something that in truth is not. According to a Press release, the new study published recently in EClinicalMedicine is the first to create body maps that reflect the sensations experienced by psychosis patients.

In the body and beyond

In addition to identifying hallucinatory experiences with specific parts of the body, which in many cases were repeated and in others marked individual characteristics in each research participant, the maps also reflected sensations that involved the entire body of the volunteer during hallucinations, and even the so-called peripersonal space.

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Generally speaking, the peripersonal space it is conceived in psychology as that area that establishes the margin of safety between our body and the rest of the world. Basically, it would be represented by the area adjacent to our body, as if it were a “protective shield” that surrounds us. Hallucinations may also appear to involve this “borderline” region of personal experience.

Related topic: Mice with hallucinations shed light on psychosis.

A multisensory experience

A crucial point that this new research clarifies is that hallucinations are characterized by numerous feelings that arise simultaneously, including multisensory characteristics, emotional and bodily. In other words, hallucination is a comprehensive phenomenon that involves all the senses, and not just separate visual, auditory, or tactile experiences.

In the same sense, those affected live a “Incarnation” of hallucinations, usually as a first episode of psychosis. This means that they relate feelings such as fear, produced during hallucinatory episodes, with pain or concrete manifestations in their body.

The scientists concluded that the results of this study may contribute to important advances in the understanding of hallucinations, and how people who experience them can be helped. The 42 maps created from the experiences of the volunteers thus constitute a turning point, deepening the scientific approach to these phenomena.


The feeling, embodiment and emotion of hallucinations in first episode psychosis: A prospective phenomenological visual-ecological study using novel multimodal unusual sensory experience (MUSE) maps. Katie Melvin, Jon Crossley, DClinPsy and John Cromby. EClinicalMedicine (2021).DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.101153

Photo: hallucinations are directly related to psychosis pictures, by marking a departure from reality, but a new study shows that they are multisensory experiences that impact people’s bodies and even in the so-called “peripersonal space”, which manifests as the perception of an extended protection zone in the body contour. Credit: Sergio Cerrato – Italy on Pixabay.

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