“Important step”: They discover the brain areas involved in auditory hallucinations of people with schizophrenia

A group of researchers from FIDMAG Hermanas Hospitalarias, attached to the Center for Biomedical Research in Mental Health Network (CIBERSAM), has discovered which are the brain areas involved in auditory hallucinations of people suffering from schizophrenia, according to a release issued this Tuesday on its website, which includes the conclusions of a study published a few days ago in Scientific Reports.

The scientists selected fifteen patients diagnosed with schizophrenia who experienced hallucinations almost continuously and used a functional magnetic resonance to study which parts of the organ are activated during the experience of voices and the perception of real speech.

They were asked to press a button inside the scanner each time they heard a voice, and another button in response to hearing real speech with characteristics similar to their own voices.

“Disturbance of language”

This is how they found that, while actual speech elicited strong activation throughout the superior temporal cortex, the experience of auditory hallucinations did not. However, they detected activations caused by hallucinations in several areas of the brain related to language and short-term memory, for example, the areas of Broca and Wernicke.

Until now, the bases neurobiológicas of auditory hallucinations and it was believed that they could have their origin in an inappropriate auditory cortex activation, which would generate a false perception of auditory stimuli at the brain level.

“With the results of our research, it can be ruled out that the experience of this type of hallucinations is based on a perceptual mechanism,” explained Edith Pomarol-Clotet, director of FIDMAG, who also participated in the study. “It appears that it is a disturbance of language and / or functions that serve to maintain speech in consciousness,” he added.

Search for treatments

The text points out that establishing the brain basis for auditory hallucinations would represent “an important first step” towards finding treatments specifically directed at this symptom, which often causes a lot of distress in people with these mental health problems.

Schizophrenia is a severe and chronic mental disorder that it affects yet 1% of the world population. It produces in patients important changes in mental functioning that lead to a loss of contact with reality, cognitive alterations and a significant social and occupational decline. Its symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, mood swings, and disorganized speech.

About 70% of people with schizophrenia suffer from auditory hallucinations, which appear in the form of a foreign voice that speaks to the patient and is often characterized by derogatory content.

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