When your brain works well, your frontal lobe is the driver of the car; it decides what's going to happen and is in control of the rest of the brain," she said.
"But when we have lack of sleep and stress and grief, then our frontal lobe just goes on holiday a little bit and doesn't have that supervisory capacity anymore, and it lets the sensory cortex just do what it wants."
Interestingly, certain hallucinations are seen as part of normal life, and indeed encouraged in some cultures, said Professor Waters.
"In some cultures it's acceptable, for example, to hear the voices of your dead relatives," she said.
Hallucinations can be a sign of psychosis, or from drug use (including some drugs that you might not think would affect your brain: I had a lawyer who hallucinated from a sulfa drug I gave him for his UTI; luckily he asked a pharmacist, not me, and the pharmacist looked it up and found it was indeed a rare but reported side effect. Since then, I had two moms complain their kids got weird on a sulfa drug for their ear infections, and I could reassure mom it was the medicine and switch it)
But hallucinations are more common with psychoactive medicines, pain pills, or medicines like anti histamines etc. that can affect the brain.
In the elderly, we have "sundowner syndrome" where the elderly get confused and hallucinate in the evening: I suspect it is because the "upper" brain is tired and can no longer control the "noise" from the lower brain.
And, as the article points out, in many cultures, seeing ghosts or hearing voices is normal.
In the IHS, our psychologist knew that many taking the "MMPI" test would come out as schizophrenic, since hearing voices or having visions was normal.
And our Objibwe elders in the tribe's nursing home frequently would see the dead (the priest would routinely bless the place, and one elder would sage it to keep out the bad spirits...those bad spirits were reportedly Sioux who were killed and buried nearby). In tribal areas, priests often bless new homes for this reason. But it's not just Native American: My German grandmother did the same when her house was infested with poltergeist activity. After the blessing it stopped.
And when I was growing up, one of my Italian classmate's mom saw the Virgin in times of trouble.
My own mom and my father's mother had second sight, and sometimes could fortell a death in the family, or important event.
and doctors know that if a person says they don't want to have surgery because they will die, well, sometimes they indeed die if they have surgery, so better not schedule it.
In one US study people who lost a spouse have seen or felt their presence.
But of course in the west, such things are considered weird so it's not discussed.
from the article:
bout 70 per cent of healthy people experience benign hallucinations when they are falling asleep, said Professor Waters. This includes hearing their name being called, the phone ringing or seeing someone sitting at the end of their bed.yeah. I hear the doorbell when half asleep but otherwise, no hallucinations.
the subconcious is hard to study, since it is full of confusion.
I shudder at all the fads about "meditation" or it's flip side, meditating to evolve to a higher power.
Meditation is hypnosis, a form of deep concentration. It opens you to creativity, to the "god within", delusions of grandeur, or it can open the "monsters of the id".
which is why gurus and monasteries only taught such exercizes to those who combined it with prayer and works and were mentally stable.
About ten percent of people are vulnerable to deep hypnosis (and brain washing if done in the wrong hands).
Ironically, the mentally ill often cannot be hypnotized because the psychic noise stops them from quieting the brain.
are the hallucinations of ordinary folks and the visions of ordinary folks the same as the hallucinations of those with psychosis? And where does meditation/trance state come into all of this?
I suspect some religious visions are "deep trance" states, since doctors stuck Bernadette of Lourdes with a pin and she didn't feel it.
This sounds like the way doctors use hypnosis for surgery etc... I can induce a trance and suture you without you feeling it too, and a friend of mine said he learned to hypnotize from his (witchdoctor) grandmother, so when they ran out of anesthetics during the Nigerian Civil War, he just hypnotized them so he could do surgery..
the prayer of quiet or simple meditation is deep concentration on god or self, but for some people they can get even deeper into these states.
The problem is that when one is in these states, you are more vulnerable to suggestion, confusion, paranoia or outside control...so if your new age group assures you that you are evolving to a higher power and can join the vangard of those who will rescue the world, well, I shudder.
but it doesn't have to be a guru/ political leader/ charismatic preacher to induce a trance state that affects a person's belief system.
Watching a movie makes one vulnerable to this state because without the distractions of the environment, you deeply concentrate on what is said: this is true if you are listening to a charismatic preacher or a political demagogue.
yet the "small quiet voice" of the conscience can be found in the quiet of prayer or meditation. Maybe the difference is that the voice of the guru tells you what you want to hear ("you are on the vangard of the new world" or "think positive and get rich") but the voice of God/Buddha/your conscience is often a thought, not a voice, and it often tells you things you might not have thought of or might not want to hear.
maybe a PET scan would work.
Again from the article:
We're still trying to understand whether there are different forms of hallucinations or whether there is only one type that takes different shapes. And what makes a hallucination distressing in some situations and not in others?"
Professor Waters' best guess is that "everyday" hallucinations may share common mechanisms with more serious hallucinations.