Journal Article

The Perceptual Characteristics of Voice-Hallucinations in Deaf People: Insights into the Nature of Subvocal Thought and Sensory Feedback Loops

Joanna R. Atkinson

in Schizophrenia Bulletin

Published on behalf of Maryland Psychiatric Research Center

Volume 32, issue 4, pages 701-708
Published in print October 2006 | ISSN: 0586-7614
Published online March 2006 | e-ISSN: 1745-1701 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbj063
The Perceptual Characteristics of Voice-Hallucinations in Deaf People: Insights into the Nature of Subvocal Thought and Sensory Feedback Loops

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The study of voice-hallucinations in deaf individuals, who exploit the visuomotor rather than auditory modality for communication, provides rare insight into the relationship between sensory experience and how “voices” are perceived. Relatively little is known about the perceptual characteristics of voice-hallucinations in congenitally deaf people who use lip-reading or sign language as their preferred means of communication. The existing literature on hallucinations in deaf people is reviewed, alongside consideration of how such phenomena may fit into explanatory subvocal articulation hypotheses proposed for auditory verbal hallucinations in hearing people. It is suggested that a failure in subvocal articulation processes may account for voice-hallucinations in both hearing and deaf people but that the distinct way in which hallucinations are experienced may be due to differences in a sensory feedback component, which is influenced by both auditory deprivation and language modality. This article highlights how the study of deaf people may inform wider understanding of auditory verbal hallucinations and subvocal processes generally.

Keywords: deafness; auditory verbal hallucinations; psychosis; subvocal articulation; British sign language (BSL); sensory feedback loop

Journal Article.  5453 words. 

Subjects: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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