The Neurophysiology of Visual Hallucination


fMRI data from 162 people with schizophrenia diagnoses and 178 people without show hyper connectivity between the amygdala and the visual cortex. “This hyperconnectivity may facilitate retrieval and reactivation of visual memories, arguably the raw material of [visual hallucinations],” say the researchers. ““Hyperconnectivity between the amygdala and visual cortex may reflect the ability of these areas to communicate too efficiently with each other, perhaps resulting in excessive conscious experiences or [visual hallucinations] of negatively charged, threatening images.”

Abstract →

Ford, J., Palzes, V., Roach, B., Potkin, S., et al; Visual Hallucinations Are Associated With Hyperconnectivity Between the Amygdala and Visual Cortex in People With a Diagnosis of Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin.  Online March 11, 2014. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbu031

Of further interest:
Biological basis for visual hallucinations identified (News Medical)

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. I had two visual hallucinations, one when being massively drugged, and one during my drug withdrawal induced super sensitivity “manic psychosis” / awakening to my dreams. Neither was terribly “threatening,” however.

    The first was an image of a cemetery, as I awoke from my dreams. What was really odd, however, was that the exact cemetery image from my dream, was the church bulletin cover at church that day. The second time wasn’t scary at all. It was the image of a sparkling and beautifully new Chicago skyline, supposedly what the city will be after Jesus returns and “makes all things new.”

    The first was a prophetic VH, the second VH was a promise of the wonders to come. Not all VH are bad, especially when you’re an artist, and can use the images as inspiration for your work. Psychiatrists are evil to want to rid the world of all the artists.

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