Non-Auditory Voices and Other Quirks of the Brain

March, in Chicago. I’m on my way to the Art Institute, and already late. Music in, coat up around my ears–it’s March in Chicago, after all. I rush by a panhandler sitting on cardboard under a doorway.

Wait.

Stop.

Turn.

I’d attended a class with a friend and had been trying to teach myself sign language for a few weeks. I was pretty sure I’d just recognized some signs from the woman in the doorway. Like me, everyone was hurrying by, avoiding eye contact. But she was signing…pausing…signing again. It was a pattern that looked a little familiar–a memory from working in schizophrenia research. The woman seemed to be talking–quite animatedly–to someone invisible.

Was she signing to voices? How would that even work? Would seeing someone signing to you be an auditory hallucination or a visual one? Would signing-hallucinations be entirely separate from other visual hallucinations (such as hallucinating animals or people following you)?

Which brings me to this research, months later: Exploring how deaf people ‘hear’ voice-hallucinations.

Participants born profoundly deaf reported non-auditory, clear and easy to understand voices. They were all confident that they did not hear any sounds, but knew the gender and identity of the voice. They reported seeing an image of the voice signing or lips moving in their mind.
[...]
Individuals with severe language deprivation and incomplete acquisition of either speech or sign, were remarkable in that they did not experience either auditory characteristics or perception of subvisual imagery of voice articulation, suggesting that language acquisition within a critical period may be necessary for voice-hallucinations that are organised in terms of how spoken or signed utterances are articulated.

Among other fascinating discoveries, people with acquired deafness could have auditory hallucinations, even if they did not currently have the ability to hear. Those born profoundly deaf and who had grasp of a communication method also could hallucinate voices, but in non-auditory ways. Those hallucinations would be organized, with genders and actual identities that could be distinguished from one another.

Incredible on its own, but even better, it gives us more information about schizophrenia. If both hearing and d/Deaf people with schizophrenia can experience similar hallucinations of people communicating information, where variance is found simply in the presentation of the information, it suggests an underlying structure of the disease that is independent of the communication system of the afflicted. It matters less how you do it–schizophrenia doesn’t appear to distinguish. Something is changing within language processing. 

Science is cool, y’all.

Update: I forgot to include a link to Charles Bonnet Syndrome, the condition of having visual hallucinations when visually impaired.

Monday Miscellany

LOOK AT THESE PRETTY PSEUDOSCIENTIFIC THINGS.

Scott, Who By Very Slow Decay

I guess I always pictured dying as – unless you got hit by a truck or something – a bittersweet and strangely beautiful process. You’d grow older and weaker and gradually get some disease and feel your time was upon you. You’d be in a nice big bed at home with all your friends and family gathered around. You’d gradually feel the darkness closing in. You’d tell them all how much you loved them, there would be tears, you would say something witty or pious or defiant, and then you would close your eyes and drift away into a dreamless sleep.

And I think this happens sometimes. For all I know, maybe it happens quite a lot. If it does, I never see these people. They very wisely stay far away from hospitals and the medical system in general. I see the other kind of people.

 Internet, we need to talk about how inappropriate uses of social media for charity.

Apparently this post is going to be heavy on the all-caps warrioring, but GAH LOOK THE NEW COSMOS TRAILER IS OUT. LOOK AT IT.

Why Banning Pro-Ana Is a Bad Idea

As far as I see it, in practical terms it means that information about treatment opportunities (such as participating in a study), awareness campaigns, or information about new health lines or recovery websites, are less likely to reach pro-eating disorder bloggers. This is bad news.

Right now, many individuals who follow my Science of Eating Disorders Tumblr either run blogs that are devoted to thinspiration or are active members of pro-eating disorder communities. Membership in pro-eating disorder communities and pro-recovery or neutral communities is not something that is NOT mutually exclusive–a point that often seems to get missed in discourse on this topic.

If these communities are pushed into the depth of the internet, into isolated and tightly knit communities, off mainstream social media and blogging websites, then reaching those communities will be harder. This isolates these individuals even more AND it isolated (or creates a big gap) between the individuals trying to reach them.

All you ever wanted to know about eye contact.

When the giant shame spiral of suckage eats your momentum in recovery.

Between you and being okay is the giant shitpile of things you didn’t do for so long that all need to be done now. So instead of momentum, healthy new habits, great leaps forward….it’s hunting down old paperwork, cleaning science experiments out of the fridge, calling the student loan people, and 6 month’s worth of unpleasant chores and administrative tasks. It’s all way harder and more fucked up and more expensive than it would have been if you’d just done it when you were supposed to, so even though you are theoretically doing better everything sucks proportionally more.