Hallucinating reality’s wallpaper

Photo by Flickr user mike138. Click for sourceHallucinations usually appear as illusory objects on the normal background of reality, but an interesting case report in the medical journal Movement Disorders reports a case of someone who hallucinated background scenery on which real people were superimposed.

We describe a patient with PD [Parkinson's disease], who had unusual background scenery VHs [visual hallucinations] on which a true person was superimposed…

In December 2008, when her husband died, she experienced background scenery VHs appearing in the left upper part of her visual fields. The abnormal scenery often became larger to encompass the full visual fields and always comprised the countryside where she was born and grew up….

In July 2009, she spoke to her deceased husband in the medical examination room, and she experienced a background scenery VHs during the examination. A physician requested her to draw the VH, and she drew a countryside scene, appearing sad. When asked how a physician in front of her was reflected in her visual field, she replied that the physician appeared normal but beside a river in the midst of the VH.

Link to PubMed entry for brief case report.

3 Comments

  1. Jena Snyder
    Posted February 12, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Oddly enough, my blind father began having background scenery VHs when his doctor put him a particular medication for Parkinson’s. He claimed he could “clearly” see trees, a cowboy riding by on a horse, birds, my brother’s red plaid shirt, and children climbing on the furniture. As soon as he was taken off the meds, the hallucinations went away. Tests later determined he didn’t have PD.

  2. pops
    Posted February 13, 2010 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    I hope I acquire the full text on that. Interesting whether or not this occurred with dopaminergic medication, as in the case Jena describes above.
    I’d also like to hear more about the picture she drew; I hope that’s in the paper as well. I think Oliver Sacks has remarked on how drawings by those afflicted with PD tend to be very simple, blocky, unelaborated …. again, unless dopaminergic medication is doing something.
    Jena, what did your father end up having if you don’t mind saying?

  3. Jena Snyder
    Posted February 13, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    At 82, Dad had inner ear problems that affected his balance, was weak, and had a tremor in his hands. He also had terrible teeth, and was constantly “chewing,” for lack of a better word. That and the fact that Dad’s father had had PD (I still remember my grandfather’s characteristic “pill-rolling” tremor) convinced the doctor. He ordered a neuro consult and prescribed dopamine. The sad part was that while Dad was hallucinating, he felt as if he really could see again.


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