I’m happy to announce that I’ve just finalised an agreement with Penguin to write a book on what hallucinations tell us about the mind, brain and human nature. From the proposal:
The mind and brain can generate fantastical visions and disembodied voices, illusory people and shifting landscapes, internal symphonies and sensed presences. These states happen at the extremes of human experience, in madness, terror and brain disturbance, but they are often an exaggeration of our natural tendency to hallucinate that we rely on for everyday perception – a tendency that has inspired great works of art and shaped history.
We all hallucinate, and our perception relies on it. We have blind spots in our vision that our brain fills with hallucinated experience. Occasionally we experience intense and vivid hallucinations, after taking certain drugs, during mental illness, with epilepsy or brain injury, during hypnosis, after being taken hostage, during deep-sea dives, while blacking out at high Gs, or at other extremes of human experience that tax the body and mind. But it is not just these situations that trigger hallucinations: one in ten healthy adjusted people hallucinate more than patients in hospital with psychosis. In other words, hallucinations are part of human nature.
The book explores different types of hallucinations and their historical and cultural significance, and explains how they arise and what they tell us about normal psychology and neuroscience. This is the central theme of the book: that hallucinations are not just mental junk; rather, they are windows into the workings of the mind and brain that can reveal the essence of our inner lives.
It won’t be out until 2012, but I’ll make sure Mind Hacks readers get to preview the adventure as it gets written.
Also, if you know of any fascinating research or interesting types of hallucinations – please let me know by posting in the comments or getting in touch.
I’m always pleased to receive tip offs and, as well of doing plenty of scientific investigation, I’m also planning to visit many interesting people and places.