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Modality-general and modality-specific processes in hallucinations

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PLEASE NOTE, WEDNESDAY, 1ST MAY. THIS IS AN EXTRA ZANGWILL TALK AND WILL TAKE PLACE AT 1.00PM. PLEASE ALSO NOTE, THERE WILL BE NO ZANGWILL TEA TODAY

There is a growing recognition in psychosis research of the importance of hallucinations in modalities other than the auditory. This has focused attention on cognitive and neural processes that might be shared by, and which might contribute distinctly to, hallucinations in different modalities. In this talk I address some issues around the modality-generality of cognitive and neural processes in hallucinations, including the role of perceptual and reality-monitoring systems, top-down and bottom-up processes in relation to the psychological and neural substrates of hallucinations, and the phenomenon of simultaneous multimodal hallucinations of the same entity. I suggest that a functional systems approach, inspired by some neglected aspects of the writings of A. R. Luria, can help us to understand patterns of hallucinatory experience across modalities and across clinical and non-clinical groups. Understanding the interplay between modality-general and modality-specific processes may bear fruit for improved diagnosis and therapeutic approaches to dealing with distressing hallucinations.

Charles Fernyhough is a psychologist and writer. The focus of his recent scientific work has been in applying ideas from mainstream developmental psychology to the study of psychosis, particularly the phenomenon of voice-hearing (in which individuals hear voices in the absence of any speaker). He is PI on the interdisciplinary Hearing the Voice project, supported by the Wellcome Trust. He is a Professor of Psychology at Durham University, and is active in outreach and public engagement work on themes relating to his research, with regular contributions to mainstream media. His latest non-fiction book is The Voices Within: The history and science of how we talk to ourselves, published by Profile Books/Wellcome Collection. His other non-fiction books include The Baby in the Mirror: A child’s world from birth to three (Granta, 2008) and Pieces of Light: Memory and its stories (Profile, 2012; shortlisted for the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books). He is the author of two novels: The Auctioneer (Fourth Estate, 1999) and A Box of Birds (Unbound, 2013). He is the editor of Others (Unbound, 2019), an anthology exploring how books and literature can show us other points of view, with net profits supporting refugee and anti-hate charities.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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