Why Do Schizophrenics Hear Voices?
2012-09-07 0:00

By Ross Pomeroy | Real Clear Science

In a way, youíre never alone. Your inner consciousness is always there to keep you company. That voice inside your head is reliably available for conversation. These intensely personal and comforting self-to-self dialogues are splayed across the humdrum of a typical day. "I think Iíll wear the blue polo to my date tonight." "Enchiladas: thatís what I want for lunch." "Oh my gosh, cute kittens!"

But what if there was a foreign voice inside your head? An entity over which you could exact no control. Wouldnít that be the worst invasion of privacy imaginable? Wouldnít that be disturbing?



For the majority of schizophrenics, this dreadful plight is a vexing regularity. Fortunately, schizophrenia is rare, but thatís no consolation to the 24 million people afflicted with the condition. Moreover, there is limited understanding of its underlying causes, and treatments -- often in the form of antipsychotics -- are far from perfect, presenting their own loaded plate of perturbing side effects.

This is where Baylor neuroscientist David Eagleman enters into the discussion. Widely regarded for his work on the brainís perception of time, synesthesia, and neurolaw, Eagleman is now foraying into the study of schizophrenia. It wasnít something he originally planned on.

Back in 2006, Eagleman and his team conducted an experiment in which subjects were simply asked to press a button. Doing so would instantly cause a nearby light bulb to blink. The researchers then added a slight tenth of a second delay between the press of the button and the light coming on and asked subjects to continue pressing the button. For the grand finale, the researchers removed the delay and watched as something completely perplexing happened. The subjects, utterly flabbergasted, insisted that the light would come on before they even pressed the button!

For Eagleman, this was an "Ah ha!" moment. Schizophrenics, he says, suffer from something called credit misattribution -- they believe that theyíre not causing their own actions. What if this is because their brainís perception of time is off, thus causing an actionís effect to seem to occur before the cause?

"Youíre always generating an internal voice and listening to it... But imagine now that you got the timing wrong. So you think you heard the voice before you generated it. You would have to interpret that as somebody elseís voice," Eagleman told Science Friday host Ira Flatow.

Eaglemanís theory has some historical support. One study conducted in 1977 compared schizophrenicsí perception of time to that of non-schizophrenics. Subjects were required to work on a task until an experimenter stopped them, and then were asked to estimate the amount of time that had transpired. At judging five-second intervals -- the briefest length of time tested -- schizophrenics significantly differed from the other subjects in their estimations.

Additional research is currently underway at Eaglemanís Baylor College laboratory. If further substantiated, Eagleman believes that this theory could potentially lead to entirely new rehabilitative strategies for schizophrenia.

"Instead of pumping people full of medications, what if we could just sit them down and have them play video games that recalibrate their timing?" Eagleman proposed on Science Friday.

Such a treatment would certainly be a welcome, calming remedy to a mental disorder thatís anything but.


Read the full article at: realclearscience.com







Changing the face of Schizophrenia | CBC.ca

Keris Myrick hears voices no one else can hear. She learned to ignore them. She also learned to ignore the voices of mental health experts telling her not to expect much from life. As the CEO of a company, sheís one of many people challenging societyís perceptions of the mentally ill.

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