Researchers develop a universal visual hallucination

Credits: UNSW

So as to better understand the natural mechanism of our brains in terms of visual hallucinations, neuro-psychologist researchers have developed a “universal” visual hallucination.   This hallucination is detected in the same way by any person in a good mental health. 

Researchers from the University of New South Wales in Australia believe that a new method to induce visual hallucinations in healthy individuals could lead to new treatments to control them in people suffering from a degenerative mental illness, such as Parkinson’s disease. Although hallucinations are often associated with psychiatric disorders, healthy people can also suffer from visual hallucinations after taking medication, being sleep deprived or if they suffer from migraines. “We’ve known for more than 100 years that flickering light can cause almost everyone to experience hallucinations,” says Joel Paerson, who is in charge of the study.

This team of neuro-psychologists have managed to come up with a universal hallucination which is identical for everyone by exploiting preexisting knowledge. They particularly used the phenomenon of retinal persistence which is when the eye has the capacity to retain a projected image for a few hundredths of a second. You can look at the video below for more details. In the viedo, white light projected on a black background gives the impression of seeing gray spots circulating in a white ring. However, please note that anyone with a history of migraines, epilepsy or psychiatric disorders is recommended against watching the video.

The next step for the researchers will be to develop a method that can model these hallucinations and locate their origin in the brain of people suffering from an illness. “If we can use these models to study their hallucinations, we might find out what is potentially causing them, and we hope to learn more about other symptoms that accompany natural hallucinogenic states.” “This will help us to learn more about what is going on pathologically in the brain during hallucinations, and ultimately help us to develop new treatments, “adds Joel Paerson, whose team published the study in eLife.


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