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Mentally well voice-hearers have a heightened ability to detect real speech

12 September 2017

Hallucinating voices isn’t always distressing. While the experience is commonly associated with schizophrenia, some people – an estimated 5 to 15 per cent of the general population – hear voices that aren’t real without finding it upsetting or debilitating (they may even welcome it) and in the absence of any of the other symptoms of psychosis, such as delusions or confusion.

Now new open-access research published in Brain has revealed a perceptual advantage for this group of people: they can detect hard-to-comprehend speech sounds more quickly and easily than people who have never hallucinated a voice.

The study, led by Ben Alderson-Day at the University of Durham, involved twelve “non-clinical voice hearers” and 17 controls (matched for age, sex, handedness, education, and National Adult Reading Test scores) who do not hear voices. While their brains were scanned using fMRI, the volunteers listened to a series of so-called “sine-wave” speech recordings.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.

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