According to recent studies, a significant percentage of people, ranging from five to ten per cent, including those without psychiatric disorders, report hearing voices associated with their deceased loved ones. These “auditory hallucinations” have long puzzled scientists as the mechanisms behind them remain largely unknown. However, neuroscientist Pavo Orepic from the University of Geneva has now developed a groundbreaking robotic theory that sheds light on this intriguing phenomenon.
Who experiences these hallucinations?
Contrary to popular belief, these hallucinations are not exclusive to individuals with psychiatric disorders. In fact, research indicates that approximately 70 per cent of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia often experience auditory hallucinations. However, studying schizophrenic patients can pose challenges due to the consumption of drugs and medications that may affect the results.
Why do these hallucinations occur?
Hallucinations occur when an individual’s sensory impressions do not align with their brain’s expectations. Additionally, investigations suggest that hallucinations may arise when the brain interprets sensory perceptions incorrectly due to conditioning from previous experiences.
The New Robotic Technique:
Orepic’s groundbreaking experiment combines both of these mechanisms to gain a deeper understanding of auditory hallucinations. In the experiment, blindfolded participants were asked to press a lever in front of them. As they did so, a robotic arm would touch their back. With practice, the brain gradually began to perceive the robotic arm’s touch as their own hand touching them from behind.
The experiment underwent a slight modification where participants would touch the lever, and the robotic arm would subsequently touch them after a brief delay. This delay caused the brain to interpret the sensory feedback as someone else being present and touching them from behind.
In the final phase of the experiment, participants were exposed to noises containing either very soft voices, including their own or someone else’s, or no voice at all. Surprisingly, those who had undergone the “delayed touch experiment” were more likely to hear voices in the noise, even when no voice had actually been mixed in.
Orepic concludes, “Our study confirms that the mechanisms behind hallucinations exist in everyone’s brain. However, some individuals appear to be more susceptible to experiencing them for reasons yet to be determined.”
Q: Who experiences auditory hallucinations?
A: Auditory hallucinations are experienced by not only individuals with psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia but also healthy individuals.
Q: Why do these hallucinations occur?
A: Hallucinations occur when an individual’s sensory impressions do not match their brain’s expectations, or when the brain incorrectly interprets sensory perceptions due to conditioning from previous experiences.
Q: What is the new robotic technique developed by Pavo Orepic?
A: The new robotic technique involves stimulating the brain with delayed sensory feedback, which can lead to the perception of someone else’s presence and increase the likelihood of hearing voices in auditory stimuli.
Q: What does the study reveal about auditory hallucinations?
A: The study suggests that the mechanisms underlying auditory hallucinations exist in everyone’s brain but may be more pronounced in certain individuals.