First Ever Body Maps of Hallucinations Created

Summary: Researchers have created the first body map of sensations experienced during hallucinations in people experiencing psychosis.

Source: University of Leicester

Leicester psychologists have, for the first time, created body-maps of the sensations which arise during hallucinations in people experiencing psychosis.

The study, published in The Lancet’s EClinicalMedicine, provides the most extensive descriptive data to date on the feelings which arise during hallucinations and where individuals reported sensations in the body. University of Leicester researchers also studied the emotions reported during hallucinations, with confusion, fear and frustration being the most common.

Although there was great variation in the localisation of feelings across participants, for each individual feelings were recurrently concentrated in particular body areas. Areas of concentration often held repeated sources of feelings like pain, heat, or tension.

Dr Katie Melvin, of the Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour at the University of Leicester and corresponding author for the study, said:

“During a systematic review of existing research, we found indicators of the contributions that multiple senses, emotions and feelings may make to hallucinations.

“We designed a study and developed the novel but simple multimodal unusual sensory experience (MUSE) map method to investigate these features further. MUSE maps involve documenting hallucinations in daily life and include body-mapping. The article shares new insights through body-maps and data on the immediate feeling of hallucinations.

“The range of feelings in the body and around the body (into peri-personal space) were particularly interesting. Participants often described that the method helped them share experiences that were difficult to put into words.

“The methods and outcomes of this study can contribute to advances on how we understand hallucinations and how we can support people who experience them. The next steps for this area of research will be further understanding the embodiment and feeling of hallucinations in different populations and developing interventions to support with this.”

This shows the body map
Example of participant annotations, used to create novel but simple multimodal unusual sensory experience (MUSE) body-maps. Credit: University of Leicester

Psychosis is a term which describes experiences where an individual may have difficulties in determining what is real and what is not real.

Research indicates psychosis is associated with experiencing trauma, adverse life events, and stress. People may be given a diagnosis such as schizophrenia. Experiences of perceiving or believing things which those around us do not can also occur in physical health conditions such as brain tumours or acute infections.

Psychosis can have serious adverse outcomes on individuals including distress, lack of sleep, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, difficulties in carrying out daily activities, experiences of discrimination and lost opportunities.

Participants in this study were asked by the research team to prospectively document the feeling and senses of hallucinations for one week prior to an interview.

Novel visual diary methods involving drawing, writing and body-mapping generated 42 MUSE maps, which set out the specific areas across the body – and beyond, in so-called peripersonal space – where participants experienced sensations during hallucinations.

The study found that hallucinations were characterised by numerous feelings arising at once, often including multisensory, emotional, and embodied features. Researchers suggest further uptake of visual, ecological and prospective methods may enhance understandings of lived experiences of hallucinations.

About this hallucinations and body mapping research news

Author: Jonathan Whitney
Source: University of Leicester
Contact: Jonathan Whitney – University of Leicester
Image: The image is credited to University of Leicester

Original Research: Open access.
The feeling, embodiment and emotion of hallucinations in first episode psychosis: A prospective phenomenological visual-ecological study using novel multimodal unusual sensory experience (MUSE) maps” by Katie Melvin et al. EClinicalMedicine


Abstract

The feeling, embodiment and emotion of hallucinations in first episode psychosis: A prospective phenomenological visual-ecological study using novel multimodal unusual sensory experience (MUSE) maps

Background

Research and practice typically focus upon unimodal hallucinations, especially auditory verbal hallucinations. Contemporary research has however indicated that voice-hearing may co-occur within a broader milieu of feelings, and multimodal hallucinations may be more common than previously thought.

Methods

An observational design asked participants to prospectively document the feeling and modality of hallucinations for one week prior to an interview. Novel visual diary methods involving drawing, writing and body-mapping generated 42 MUSE maps (multimodal unusual sensory experience), analysed with a participatory qualitative method. Twelve people took part: all experiencing hallucinations daily, accessing early intervention in psychosis services, given psychotic-spectrum diagnoses, and living in the community. The study took place during a seven-month period in 2018 at Leicestershire and Rutland’s Psychosis Intervention and Early Recovery service (UK).

Findings

All documented hallucinations co-occurred with bodily feelings. Feelings were localised to specific body areas, generalised across the body and extended beyond the body into peripersonal space. Co-occurring emotional feelings most commonly related to confusion, fear and frustration.

Interpretation

Hallucinations were characterised by numerous feelings arising at once, often including multimodal, emotional, and embodied features. Within this study, the immediate feeling of hallucination experiences were readily communicated through prospective, visual, and ecological information gathering methods and particularly those which offer multiple modes of communication (e.g. body-map, visual, written, oral). Uptake of visual, ecological and prospective methods may enhance understandings of lived experiences of hallucinations.Funding: University of Leicester.

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    1. There is a young man held hostage in China. He is white with light curly hair. He is being tortured and has been for many yesrs outside. This may changed the color of his skin. Please look for him and bring him home safe. This was reported by CNN as I remember. Is this what we have become? Our fellow children of God getting lost and disappearing in a foreign land. We are his family and he needs to come home now.

  1. I was diagnosed with psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar, adhd, ptsd. And wasn’t diagnosed until my adulthood. Late 40’s, 10 years ago and I have had some amazing experiences I’m writing a book about it but need more clarity and guidance. I believe there’s a one percent out there dealing with the third eye. I was born in the 60’s and they were doing brain therapy with injections given to my mom monthly. I am LAD Lethal Alien Diagnosis…

    1. I tried looking up what lethal alien diagnosis is but nothing came up. I’m intrigued by what it could possibly mean, so please tell me, I just gotta know.

  2. I’m getting very frustrated trying to get help for my son. They label him as having mental problems.I been through so much with him.

  3. This isn’t the first of anything in that matter . People have been documenting these things since the 70’s . Nice try but you discovered what everybody already knew .

  4. This is very valid and meaningful research! But where’s Leicester? Never heard of it? If in the UK, people over there need to get more exercise, then they wouldn’t feel the mysterious vibes in their legs!

    1. Why would someone always feeling great and happy need help with anything? They wouldn’t. Go write about them elsewhere if that tickles your fancy. 👌

  5. I have an inherited form of Parkinson’s. Aside from that, the human map drawing conforms to perhaps 70% of fearful episodes inside the trunk of my body, uncontrollable staccato knees, both legs and both fee bouncing fast and and unstoppable. Racing heart, panic. It’s like a jackhammer inside me, worse than the sensation of teeth chattering. One episode lasted 7 hours. Most about 2 hours. Neurologists have guessed akathisia, but akathisia is not visible. I’ve sat in my Neurologist’s and psychiatrist’s office quivering, feet bouncing, while they did nothing. Yet I am fully aware of the episodes and have not hallucinated. Very frightening, whether triggered or caused by profound stress or random.

  6. Contradictory statements in summary and first paragraph.

    Quote:

    Summary: Researchers have created the first body map of sensations experienced during hallucinations in people NOT experiencing psychosis.

    Source: University of Leicester

    Leicester psychologists have, for the first time, created body-maps of the sensations which arise during hallucinations in people experiencing psychosis.

  7. My nephew is like this. He needs help. Can you give me direction for him. He’s a talented young man. He has children that need him.

    1. Schizophrenia is also a medical condition and not just a name given to a reaction to stress. For both this and bipolar, research shows links to maternal infections during the prenatal period, epigenetic factors, nutritional issues, and more. In fact, when folic acid supplementation was increased in the US in 1996 to reduce spina bifida rates, Schizophrenia rates also decreased. While stress can be a factor in these illnesses, stress can also cause heart attacks and increase susceptibility to cancer and infection. We don’t then refer to instances of cancer, heart disease, and infection as non-medical. This kind of wording might be excusable from ignorance in a lay person article or as a fluff psychology piece, but to see it in an article labeled as research on a site called Neuroscience is nauseating, to say the least.

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