Photographing hallucinations

BMJ Case Reports has a paper that describes two patients with Parkinson’s disease who experienced hallucinations that transferred onto photos they took to try and prove they were real.

This is ‘Patient 1’ from the case report:

Patient 1 was first evaluated at age 66, having been diagnosed with PD [Parkinson’s Disease] at age 58… She complained of daytime and night-time visual hallucinations for the past one year. Most of the time she did not have insight about them. She described seeing three children playing in her neighbour’s yard and a brunette woman sleeping under the covers in one of the beds in her house. She also saw images of different people sitting quietly in her living room. Most of her visual hallucinations subsided in open and brightly lit spaces but were, nevertheless, troublesome. In one instance, she saw a man covered in blood, holding a child and called 911.

Her husband, in an attempt to prove to her that these were hallucinations, took pictures of the neighbour’s yard and the bed in their house. Surprisingly, when shown these photos, the patient continued to identify the same children playing in the yard and the same brunette woman sleeping under the covers. This perception was present every time the patient looked at these photos. Within 6 months of stopping ropinirole and titrating quetiapine to 75 mg every night at bedtime the hallucinations were less severe and shorter in duration, but the patient continued to see them in the photos.


Link to locked article in BMJ Case Reports.

3 thoughts on “Photographing hallucinations”

  1. This makes sense from a psychoanalytic point of view. The hallucination is a piece of transformed and distorted unconscious content, and the photos act as an associative trigger which produce a specific piece of transference: the hallucination. Think of how an old song can trigger a feeling state. The principle is the same.

  2. It’s the ones sitting quietly in the living room that are the most disturbing…

    If I ever develop PD I’m going to be buying a LOT of bright lamps and so on.

  3. Wait did they take identical pictures of the same scenes when an episode was not occurring, or the subject was not present according to the hallucinator?

    Since if they had a sort of Control like that… and the patient could tell the difference between the pictures, that would be undetectable to anyones eye… the implications would be staggering.

    Perhaps schizophrenics are not experiencing positive hallucinations like traditional theories would claim. But that perhaps the majority of us are experiencing negative ones… and the truth is somewhere in the middle… since being able to tell two pictures apart that are identical and still see images in them, would imply that there is some sort of information there that the rest of society cannot examine, even if the schizophrenic examines it erroneously… at least he is aware of it existing. I know this is a lot of speculation but I really want to know more about this study… because this sounds a bit more complex than a trigger causing the hallucination to replay in freez frame.

    Not to sound nutty, but perhaps the light on the film records more than we are ready for.

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