Did you know you’ve probably hallucinated in the past week? Multiple times, most likely. You don’t need to be concerned; these episodes are a relatively common experience for healthy people.
You might have heard your name being called in an empty street, or sworn your phone beeped at you, only to find no notifications. These “low-level” hallucinations occur for around 10-15 percent of people, and they can help us uncover how hallucinations are formed in health and illness.
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A team of researchers from Columbia University, led by psychiatrist Clifford Cassidy, took full advantage of these hallucinatory experiences, and described their work in a recent paper for Current Biology.
Definition - Hallucinatory - Experiences - Hearing - Feeling
A strict definition for hallucinatory experiences has been hard to pin down, but they may involve seeing, hearing, feeling, or even smelling things that aren’t there. Although hallucinations are typically considered a sign of illness, this is not a fair prejudice, given how many healthy people experience them. Yet despite considerable research, it is still not clear why people with a range of physical or mental diagnoses hallucinate.
One potential culprit is the brain chemical dopamine. Dopamine has been shown to be involved in numerous brain functions, including reward, motivation, and pleasure, broadly speaking. And scientists have long suspected its role in unusual experiences like hallucinations.
Researchers - Class - Drugs - Relief - Schizophrenia
In the 1950s, researchers stumbled upon a new class of drugs that provided relief for those suffering from schizophrenia. These drugs were known as antipsychotics and, as the name suggests, they reduced symptoms like hallucinations and delusions — primarily by reducing the levels of dopamine in the brain. This led clinicians and scientists to argue that dopamine was linked to the...
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