Effet de l'écoute de mots déjà hallucinés chez des sujets schizophrènes en rémission: Étude de six cas par la résonance magnétique nucléaire fonctionnelle

Translated title of the contribution: Effects of listening to previously hallucinated words by schizophrenia patients in remission: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study of six cases

L. Ait Bentaleb, E. Stip, A. Mendrek, B. Mensour, M. Beauregard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background. Despite immense importance of auditory verbal hallucinations (AVHs) in the phenomenology of schizophrenia, the neurocognitive and neurophysiological bases of AVHs remain obscure. On the neurocognitive level, it has been proposed that AVHs arise from the disordered monitoring manifested by patients' inability to recognize their inner speech as being their own. On the neurophysiological level, the AVHs have been attributed to the aberrant activity in the primary auditory cortex (Heschl's gyrus). Although interesting, these models cannot account for the very specific and restricted content of AVHs in individual patients. The specific content of AVHs persists across different psychotic episodes even after extended periods of remission. Furthermore, the AVHs are usually triggered by emotionally charged and stressful situations. Design. We hypothesized that even during absence of AVHs, when patients are in remission, the verbal content remains present in the latent, pre-clinical form. In order to elucidate potential cerebral substrates of the dormant AVHs content, we employed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 6 schizophrenia patients in total remission of AVHs for at least 12 months, during listening to the words hallucinated by them in the past. Specifically, we created the list of previously hallucinated words for each patient and matched the words in terms of length, structure, emotional valence, semantic category and frequency of usage with the non-hallucinated words. Moreover, each patient was paired demographically with the control participant who was presented with the same words. We predicted that exposure to the hallucinated versus non-hallucinated words would result in increased activation in cerebral areas associated with cognitive and emotional content of previously experienced AVHs in patients, whereas the same comparison will not produce any significant changes in blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal in control participants. In addition, based on existing neuroimaging data obtained during experience of AVHs, we hypothesized that previously hallucinated words may elicit greater activation in the primary auditory cortex than the non-hallucinated words in patients. Each pair of participants was analyzed separately. Results. The most consistent finding in patients, absent in all control participants, was significant activation in the orbitofrontal and medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) during listening to previously hallucinated versus non-hallucinated words. The orbitofrontal and medial PFC are both part of corticolimbic system and play an important role in cognitive control of emotion processing. Discussion. Thus, present results imply that previously hallucinated words, even in remission, are associated with inappropriate emotional response on neurophysiological level in schizophrenia patients. The relative hyperactivation of orbitofrontal and medial PFC in patients may stem from and/or may contribute to anomalous neural plasticity and disordered connectivity in the corticolimbic circuitry. This in turn could lead to attribution of excessive emotional salience to normally neutral stimuli and over time via process of sensitization could result in hallucinations. Potential normalization of this dysfunction could reduce patients' susceptibility to experience AVHs in stressful situations. In addition to observed hyperactivations in the PFC, some schizophrenia patients exhibited anomalous BOLD signal in other regions of the corticolimbic system such as anterior cingulate gyrus and parahippocampal gyrus. These additional anomalies could be related to greater affective sensitivity to the hallucinated versus non-hallucinated words in some patients. Conclusion. Finally, in contrast to our initial hypothesis we did not observe any significant differences between processing of the hallucinated versus non-hallucinated words in the primary auditory cortex. In retrospect, this result is not surprising because patients did not experience internally generated AVHs while in the scanner, but instead were exposed exclusively to externally generated stimuli.

Translated title of the contributionEffects of listening to previously hallucinated words by schizophrenia patients in remission: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study of six cases
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)27-40
Number of pages14
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive processing
  • Emotion processing
  • Frontal lobe
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Hallucinations
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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