"Hearing voices": Auditory hallucinations as failure of top-down control of bottom-up perceptual processes.

Research Area: Research Year: 2009
Type of Publication: Article
Authors: Hugdahl, Kenneth
Auditory hallucination is a key characteristic of schizophrenia that seriously debilitates the patient, with consequences for social engagement with others. Hallucinatory experiences are also observed in healthy individuals in the general population who report "hearing voices" in the absence of an external acoustic input. A view on auditory hallucinations and "hearing voices" is presented that regards such phenomena as perceptual processes, originating from speech perception areas in the left temporal lobe. Healthy individuals "hearing voices" are, however, often aware that the experience comes from inner thought processes, which is not reported by hallucinating patients. A perceptual model can therefore, not alone explain the difference in the phenomenology of how the "voices heard" are attributed to either an inner or outer cause. An expanded model is thus presented which takes into account top-down cognitive control, localized to prefrontal cortical areas, to inhibit and re-attribute the perceptual mis-representations. The expanded model is suggested to be empirically validated using a dichotic listening speech perception paradigm with instructions for top-down control of attention focus to either the right or left side in auditory space. It is furthermore suggested to use fMRI to validate the temporal and frontal lobe neuronal correlates of the cognitive processes involved in auditory hallucinations.
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