What do auditory verbal hallucinations sound like?

As part of this year’s Science Spectacular, EPiC lab gathered at Manchester Museum to show our visitors how we study inner speech scientifically and how we could help people who suffer from auditory verbal hallucinations.

Jaydan created a rhyming game to show that inner speech in silent reading reflects our regional accents (​Filik & Barber, 2011).  Try to read these two sentence in your head:

  1. There was a young runner from Bath, Who stumbled and fell on the path; She didn’t get picked, As the coach was quite strict, So he gave the position to Kath.
  2. There was an old lady from Bath, Who waved to her son down the path; He opened the gates, And bumped into his mates, Who were Gerry, and Simon, and Garth.

People from the north of England will find story 1 rhymes better.  This is because in the north, bath and path are pronounced /baθ/ and /paθ/, which rhyme with Kath /kaθ/ but not Garth /ga:θ/.  People from the south of England will experience the opposite as they pronounce bath and path as /ba:θ/ and /pa:θ/, whcih rhyme with Garth but not Kath.

Olivia found a nice video on YouTube to illustrate what auditory verbal hallucinations may sound like.  “Not pleasant at all”, said a visitor after a listen.  The inner world of a schizophrenic is indeed scary but also intriguing at the same time.  Please have a listen yourself below.

Interesting, but how might we help people with hallucinations?

Well, the inner speech model of hallucinations says hallucinations are caused by mis-attributing self-generated inner speech to an external source.  By studying the neural basis of normal inner speech, we can figure out which parts of the brain are important in generating and attributing inner speech.  We can then compare that with the brain with hallucinations and find out what is “broken” inside.  We can then develop ways to fix it, perhaps through neurostimulation, for instance.

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