Sensory Deprivation can cause Hallucinations

According to the article on the WIRED SCIENCE website, just 15 minutes of sensory deprivatiin can cause hallucinations. It is a common fact that isolation from people and life can make hearing voices worse, so I was interested to see this article. Especially when “seclusion” is often used as a form of treatment for people in mental health facilities.

The study can be found on Pubmeds site .

This easier to understand rundown is from MINDHACK site

The researchers were interested in resurrecting the somewhat uncontrolled research done in the 50s and 60s where participants were dunked into dark, silent, body temperature float tanks where they subsequently reported various unusual perceptions.

In this study the researchers screening a large number of healthy participants using a questionnaire that asks about hallucinatory experiences in everyday life. On the basis of this, they recruited two groups: one of ‘high’ hallucinators and another of ‘low’ hallucinators.

They then put the participants, one by one, in a dark anechoic chamber which shields all incoming sounds and deadens any noise made by the participant. The room had a ‘panic button’ to stop the experiment but apparently no-one needed to use it.

They asked participants to sit in the chamber for 15 minutes and then, immediately after, used a standard assessment to see whether they’d had an unusual experiences.

After a twenty minute break, they were asked again about perceptual distortions to see if there were any difference when normal sensation was restored.

Hallucinations, paranoid thoughts and low mood were reported more often after sensory deprivation for both groups but, interestingly, people already who had a tendency to have hallucinations in everyday life had a much greater level of perceptual distortion after leaving the chamber than the others.

This study complements research published in 2004 that found that visual hallucinations could be induced in healthy participants just by getting them to wear a blindfold for 96 hours.

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