Help at hand for people with schizophrenia

May 24, 2013 by Solrun Dregelid

How can healthy people who hear voices help schizophrenics? Finding the answer for this is at the centre of research conducted at the University of Bergen.

Researchers from the Bergen fMRI Group at the University of Bergen (UiB) are working on how to help schizophrenics, who hear voices. The way they do this is by studying people who also hear voices, but who do not suffer from a . For a five-year period, the group is studying the processes causing people to hear voices. A recent report published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience shows some of the group's startling results.

"We have found that the primary of healthy people who hear voices, responds less to outside stimulus than the corresponding area of the brain in people who don't hear voices," says Post Doctor Kristiina Kompus.

Kompus, who works at UiB's Department of Biological and , is lead author of the just published study.

Variations in cognitive control

The primary auditory cortex is the region of the brain that processes sound. Kompus' study shows that healthy people who hear voices share some attributes with schizophrenics, as the cortical region in both groups reacts less to outside .

However, there is an important difference between people who hear voices. Whilst those with have a reduced ability to regulate the primary auditory cortex using cognitive control, those who hear voices but are healthy are able to do so.

"Because of this , who hear voices are able to direct their attention outwards. This sets them apart from schizophrenics, who have a tendency to direct their attention inwards due to their decreased ability to regulate their primary auditory cortex," says Kompus before adding,

"These discoveries have brought us one step close to understanding the hallucinations of schizophrenics and why the voices become a problem for some people but not for others."

Many healthy people hear voices

So what is the next step for Kompus and her fellow researchers?

"We will do further research on the brain structure of people with auditory hallucinations. In particular, we wish to look at the brain's networks that process outside voices. This is to establish whether these voice and the outside voices occur in the same parts of the brain. We also wish to establish if hearing voices is a genetical trait," she says.

According to the researchers, approximately five per cent of us hear voices in the head, even if otherwise healthy. This number is based on research from several countries and surveys. For their own research, Kompus and her team used local media in Bergen to call for people who hear voices. The results were overwhelming, with around 30 people getting in touch with the researchers to register for the study.

Explore further: Brain uses internal 'average voice' prototype to identify who is talking

More information:

Related Stories

Body size conveyed by voice determines vocal attractiveness

April 24, 2013

Deep male voices and high-pitched female voices are perceived as more attractive because listeners gauge the speaker's body size from the frequency of their voice, according to research published April 24 in the open access ...

New brain-test app

February 8, 2013

Two years ago, researcher Josef Bless was listening to music on his phone when he suddenly had an idea.

The voices in older literature speak differently today

October 15, 2012

When we read a text, we hear a voice talking to us. Yet the voice changes over time. In his new book titled Poesins röster, Mats Malm, professor in comparative literature at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that ...

Recommended for you

Rat brain atlas provides MR images for stereotaxic surgery

October 21, 2016

Boris Odintsov, senior research scientist at the Biomedical Imaging Center at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and Thomas Brozoski, research professor ...

ALS study reveals role of RNA-binding proteins

October 20, 2016

Although only 10 percent of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases are hereditary, a significant number of them are caused by mutations that affect proteins that bind RNA, a type of genetic material. University of California ...

Imaging technique maps serotonin activity in living brains

October 20, 2016

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that's partly responsible for feelings of happiness and for mood regulation in humans. This makes it a common target for antidepressants, which block serotonin from being reabsorbed by neurons ...

Overcoming egocentricity increases self-control

October 19, 2016

Neurobiological models of self-control usually focus on brain mechanisms involved in impulse control and emotion regulation. Recent research at the University of Zurich shows that the mechanism for overcoming egocentricity ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3 / 5 (2) May 24, 2013
Hearing motion is not a auditory hallucination.
Hearing voices is a auditory hallucination.

Are there composers of music born deaf?
Are we privileged to share their hallucination with a sense they are not born with - their 'hallucinations' of music?
3 / 5 (2) May 24, 2013
Above comment typos are:

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.