Listening to Voices

Should you take medical advice from voices apparently coming out of thin air?

Cases of people “hearing voices”, whether spiritual or not, lies at the root of most religions with a litany of saints and prophets describing the apparently supernatural guidance they received. Still, modern neuroscience has indicated that many of these experiences can be due to different forms of brain pathology. Along with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, auditory hallucinations have also been linked to complex forms of epilepsy, injuries, or strokes involving auditory regions of the brain’s cortex.

Or possibly even a tumour.

A bizarre care reported in a 1997 issue of the British Medical Journal takes an intriguing look at the neurological roots of auditory hallucinations which actually helped medical doctors diagnosis illness. Written by Ikechukwu Obialo Azuonye, then a consulting psychiatrist at the Lambeth Healthcare NHS trust, the paper is titled, “A difficult case: Diagnosis made by hallucinatory voices.”    

In the case history, an otherwise healthy woman referred to as “A.B” had been living in Britain since the 1960s and was a full-time homemaker when the events described in the article began in 1984.   A.B. was reportedly sitting at home, reading, when she heard a voice in her head. The voice reportedly told her: “Please don't be afraid. I know it must be shocking for you to hear me speaking to you like this, but this is the easiest way I could think of. My friend and I used to work at the Children's Hospital, Great Ormond Street, and we would like to help you.”

To read more, check out my new post on the James Randi Educational Foundation blog.

           

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