Chasing the origin of hallucinations in the brain

3-28-2019 convohallucination
Image: dimitris_k/iStock

People under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs like LSD often experience vivid visual hallucinations. But exactly what is happening within the brain to induce such a state remains a mystery. According to a new paper in Cell Reports, experiments with mice under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug showed evidence that the hallucinations may be triggered by reduced signaling between neurons in the visual cortex, along with changes in the timing at which they fire.

This might seem counterintuitive, according to co-author Cris Niell, a neuroscientist at the University of Oregon. “You might expect visual hallucinations would result from neurons in the brain firing like crazy or by mismatched signals,” he said.

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In short, the brain may just be over-interpreting a lack of information. When we dream, for instance, there are no visual signals entering the brain, and yet the brain still creates visual patterns.

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“Understanding what’s happening in the world is a balance of taking in information and your interpretation of that information,” said Niell. “If you’re putting less weight on what’s going on around you but then over-interpreting it, that could lead to hallucinations.”

Read full, original post: Hallucinating mice bring us one step closer to what’s going on in the brain

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