- sensory deprivation experiments and hallucinations
- Sensory deprivation experiments are also known as isolation experiments. Both terms are used to denote an experimental study in which a test person is subjected to a drastically reduced and depatterned sensory input. Biomedical case reports of the hallucinatory effects of sensory deprivation date back to the 19th century. In 1861, for example, the German psychiatrist Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Roller (1802-1978) published an account of the effects of solitary confinement on mental health. Similar reports stem from solitary sailors, mountaineers, and polar explorers. The phenomenon itself has been known since ancient times, as witness many of the 'spiritual journeys' reported by shamans and mystics. The systematic study of sensory deprivation was initiated in or shortly before 1951 by the Canadian psychobiologist Donald Olding Hebb (1904-1985). Hebb had received a government assignment to evaluate the effects of Chinese and Russian brainwashing techniques based on sensory deprivation. An unexpected finding in his initial study was the spontaneous report of hallucinations by 14 test persons. Out of this group, 11 individuals reported only * simple and * geometric visual hallucinations, whereas the other 3 also reported * scenic hallucinations. As Hebb wrote in 1954, "It appears that the activity has a rather regular course of development from simple to complex. The first symptom is that the visual field, when the eyes are closed, changes from a dark to a light contour; next there are reports of dots of light, lines, or simple geometrical patterns. All 14 subjects reported such imagery (in runs lasting from two to six days), which was a new experience to them. The next step, reported by 11 subjects, is seeing something like wallpaper patterns. Then came isolated objects, without background, reported by 7 out of 14, and finally integrated scenes usually containing dreamlike distortions, reported by three of the 11." These findings prompted a series of similar experiments by Hebb and his colleagues Wood-burn Heron, Harold Bexton, Benjamin Doane, and Thomas Scott, and soon thereafter by many others in countries around the world. The means of sensory deprivation evolved from the use of cardboard arm cuffs, cotton gloves, and translucent or opaque goggles in sound-deadened isolation cubicles, to the use of sophisticated waterimmersion techniques. Basically, however, each experiment involved the exposure ofhealthy individuals to prolonged periods of reduced and depatterned sensory input. As these studies confirmed, sensory deprivation may evoke *visual illusions and hallucinations, *metamorphopsias, and in some cases also * tactile, * somaesthetic, *olfactory, and * auditory illusions in the majority of healthy individuals within several hours to days. Next, the circumstances most favourable to the genesis of hallucinations were studied. Some studies indicated that hallucinations are most likely to occur when sensory input is diminished rather than absent. As Doane et al. concluded, "Unpatterned sensory stimulation increases the probability of hallucinatory activity". Hallucinations were also found to increase in frequency and variation when motility was restricted and when test persons were lying on their back rather than sitting in a chair. It is still unclear whether hallucinatory activity is influenced directly by such means of restraint or whether this influence should be attributed to the stress associated with restraint.In some studies suggestions and expectations served to increase the frequency and variation of visual hallucinations and to induce additional *auditory and * kinaesthetic hallucinations -whereas in others, the suggestion that soft music would be played failed to induce any * musical hallucinations. Pathophysiologically, hallucinations occurring in the context of sensory deprivation tend to be considered * release phenomena. As a technique, sensory deprivation may be regarded as diametrically opposed to * sleep deprivation (which results in a continuous bombardment of sensory stimuli). The expression 'pharmacologically induced sensory deprivation' is sometimes used to denote the effects ofa group of hallucinogens known as * dissociatives.ReferencesBexton, W.H., Heron, W., Scott, T.H. (1954). Effects of decreased variation in the sensory environment. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 8, 70-76.Hebb, D.O. (1954). The problem of consciousness and introspection. In: Brain mechanisms and consciousness. Edited by Delafresnaye, J.F. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas. Roller, Chr. (1861). Über Seelenstörungen in Einzelhaft. Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie und psychisch-gerichtliche Medizin, 20, 195-213.Vernon, J. (1963). Inside the black room. Studies of sensory deprivation. London: Souvenir Press.Zubek, J.P., ed. (1969). Sensory deprivation: Fifteen years of research. New York, NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Dictionary of Hallucinations. J.D. Blom. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Sensory deprivation — or perceptual isolation is the deliberate reduction or removal of stimuli from one or more of the senses. Simple devices such as blindfolds or hoods and earmuffs can cut off sight and hearing respectively, while more complex devices can also… … Wikipedia
hearing loss and hallucinations — The association between auditory hallucinations and severe hearing loss has been known for some time. Not unlike the visual hallucinations within the context of Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS), auditory hallucinations against the background of… … Dictionary of Hallucinations
isolation experiments — see sensory deprivation experiments and hallucinations … Dictionary of Hallucinations
perceptual release theory of hallucinations — Also referred to as dream intrusion, dual input model, and seepage theory. The term perceptual release theory was introduced in or shortly before 1958 by the American psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West (1924 1999) to denote a hypothetical model… … Dictionary of Hallucinations
sleep deprivation-induced hallucination — Also known as sleep deprivation hallucination. The term sleep deprivation refers to the deliberate prevention of sleep. Sleep deprivation may be self induced or induced by others, as in interrogation, torture, or sleep deprivation experiments … Dictionary of Hallucinations
psychonaut — The term psychonaut comes from the Greek words psuchè (life breath, spirit, soul, mind) and nautès (sailor, navigator). It translates as sailor of the mind or navigator of the psyche . Its origin is commonly attributed to the German author and … Dictionary of Hallucinations
sleep — sleepful, adj. sleeplike, adj. /sleep/, v., slept, sleeping, n. v.i. 1. to take the rest afforded by a suspension of voluntary bodily functions and the natural suspension, complete or partial, of consciousness; cease being awake. 2. Bot. to… … Universalium
Parapsychology — American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842–1910) was an early psychical researcher. Part of a series of artic … Wikipedia
Dream — For other uses, see Dream (disambiguation). The Knight s Dream , 1655, by Antonio de Pereda Dreams are successions of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep … Wikipedia
Out-of-body experience — Artist s depiction of the separation stage of an out of body experience, which often precedes free movement. An out of body experience (OBE or sometimes OOBE) is an experience that typically involves a sensation of floating outside of one s body… … Wikipedia