Martin's inquiry into hallucinations

Over several days and evenings beginning last Saturday the 18th I have been in a texting conversation with Martin Taylor in Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. He has no computer with him, and though his iPad has a keyboard function the messaging app on it is frozen in some way. We’re both stuck with tiny tippy tappy ‘keyboards’ on cellphones. Treatment/symptoms interfere with memory of his passwords to email and Discourse. I am hoping that his son (who lives in Toronto) will help him get better set up.

He has asked me to post those parts of our chat which concern hallucinations. These follow now, with his texts quoted and my replies not quoted. He would be happy to have any insights or suggestions for him to investigate.

I’m experiencing a lot of hallucinations and I find that they are subjectively very different from imagined things. The hallucinations seem quite real at the time and I have no control over what they are or what they do (which is usually nothing). I can control my imagination to some degree. Not so a hallucination, which at the time seems to be a separate person. I don’t remember reading anything in the PCT literature about this kind of uncontrollable imagination. I suppose it has to do with hours lying in a hospital bed, but what? Maybe your cerebellum exploration has clues.

I am interested in what you discover about these experiences that you distinguish as hallucinations (I guess because they are anomalous in certain ways).

One thing about my hallucinations is that they don’t always appear in physically possible places. An apparently solid man (always a stranger)can be up against the ceiling. It doesn’t seem strange at the moment. All my hallucinations so far have been of a late middle age man.

Fascinating! No one you know, perhaps 30 years younger than you. Dressed conventionally for current time?

Yes but I only see his torso and head with tight curly greying hair clearly

Years ago, I read a report of a psychologist working with people judged schizophrenic who hallucinated voices. Had some very useful conversations with them, with the patient relating what they said. Might not be best to speak aloud to a floating head no one else sees, but I wonder if mental interrogation might elicit some kind of response.

Have not tried communicating. I do have synaesthesia between numbers and colors sometimes. For example a display “3” will be pink and a “4” a deep blue. Not always.

Yes, I think the huge complexity in the granular layer and Purkinje cell Forest accounts for synesthesia, a cross-modal association that would normally be inhibited.

Once at a Baltimore performance of the Beethoven performance of the violin concerto with Francescatti the music was a rural scene in golden light,so it is not necessarily simple symbols or sounds. Much more common in my youth than recently.

So would that have been something between, neither active imagining nor uncontrolled hallucination? Controlling imagination is a higher level varying the references for lower ones, with those alone returning as input. In that concert you had lower level input (as well as higher) on another sensory modality. In addition to, and apparently inspiring, the visual imagining. Or hallucination?

Exactly so

The difference may be that in imagination we are aware of the systems issuing the references.

I remember Woody Heron or Heroldson at McGill in the late 50s or early 60s doing sensory isolation tests in a float tank and reporting hallucinations. Maybe the sensory system at each level is controlled to maintain a particular total RMS output and at higher levels the result is hallucinations.

I would not mind if you put our imagination-hallucination discussion on the forum. I would love to know what Rick would make of the phenomenon. My guess is that he will deny that it happens. But there may be some on the forum who have experienced something related and would have some PCT related questions or suggestions.

Today some hallucinations seem to have been based on my wants of the moment. I was waiting for transport back to my room for a long time and I hallucinated two nurses asking what I needed. Yes today they talk.

Sorry to hear that Martin is in the hospital. I wish him a speedy recovery.

I would not mind if you put our imagination-hallucination discussion on the forum. I would love to know what Rick would make of the phenomenon. My guess is that he will deny that it happens.

Nope, I don’t deny it. I have had experiences that might be called “hallucinations” but the clearest one’s have been sensory based. For esxxample, I had very distinct auditory hallucinations while listening to the auditory noise bursts that were the stimuli in my PhD research. And I recall some pretty nice visual hallucinations I had while high on marijuana, staring at the ash of my cigarette. The ask turned into beautiful porcelain figurines.

And I recently had a rather disturbing, but interesting, visual experience. While dancing I suddenly saw a purple recangular grating, apparently about 3x2cm, floating in my visual field. I don’t think it was an afterimage because I had not been exposed to any grating like the one I suddenly saw. My guess was that it was the last, dying firing of one of Hubel and Weisel’s receptive field cells in my lateral geniculate or visual cortex. I count it as a hullucination because I was clearly seeing something “out there” that wasn’t out there.

I’ve never had a hallucination like the one described by Martin, where he had a sustained, clear perception of a person present before him who wasn’t actually there. Though I did recently have the fleeting experience of feeling and seeing my late wife sitting next to me as I was watching some TV show. When I turned to talk with her she was no longer there. Very disappointing.

I think there is clearly a relationship between imagining and hallucinating. From a theory perspective, I think it has to do with the throwing of the imagination switches. One of the few glaring lacune in Powers’ model (which he admits to) is a testable proposal for what “throws the switches” that puts us into teh different “modes” of controlling: Control, Passive Observation, Automatic and Imagination.

I think we have all experienced the phenomenon of jerking awake while imagiing (dreaming) that we are falling. I think this is an example of switches that were in imagination mode slipping into control mode. I think it might be possible to explain hallucinations as an imagination switch at the lowest level of the hierarchy slipping into passive observation mode. Hallucinations would happen when the brain function taking care of the control mode switch falls asleep at the wheel, so to speak.

Wonderful to see you controlling through trying to understand what is happening, Martin!
I read Oliver Sack’s book on hallucinations a while ago (actually listened to it as an audiobook in intervals between waking and sleeping). His descriptions of phenomena are always very insightful and his way of seeing the world is very compatible with PCT.

I’ll listen to it again to see if I can find answers

Sacks also noted these kind of hallucinations, of people appearing to stand in the room. It’s interesting, right, that there is a clear distinction between imagining, where at the same time you have a solid understanding that it is not real, and hallucination, in which the experience is very real, only through reasoning you can find out that it cannot be real.

I connect this to different levels in the hierarchy. Say imagining is control from the program level, making use of all the lower levels (and shortcutting through the imagination loop). Depending on your state of mind (or the use of marijuana :slight_smile: ) your imagination can be very vivid. But from this level, it’s clear that what you see in your mind’s eye is not real.

What if hallucinations are control efforts through the highest level, systems concepts level, which (in my view) controls how all perceptions you perceive are integrated into the same worldview. In that level, control means deciding what is integrated in your perceptual hierarchy or not. When your system is going through a rough time (medicine, illness, drugs) and there are many perceptions in your system (vision impairment, disturbances in the brain) which are not usual, I think that the highest level control systems try to make them fit in to your worldview, which would, at times, mean that things are perceived to be real when in fact they are not (or cannot be real). That would be an hallucination.

Take care, Martin!

I warmly agree – as think everyone here – with Rick’s wish for Martin’s speedy recovery!

I think also that hallucinations are uncontrolled / uncontrollable imaginations. I would like to ask Warren and other MOL specialists what they think, could the uncontrollable imaginations in some / many psychical problems / diseases be a consequence of internal conflicts like they thinks other psychical problems typically are? Could an internal conflict prevent the control of imagination?

I believe there can be very many kinds of reasons for the lost control of imagination: drugs, strain, injuries etc. But one special – and at the same time very usual – type of phenomena is especially interesting and important: dreaming, namely sleep dreaming. Generally dreams are uncontrolled products of imagination. Usually we can tell them apart from real happenings, probably there must be some evolutionary mechanism which makes dreams less lively and realistic that normal perceptions, but sometimes it does not work well enough. Then we can get “sleep hallucinations”. In the other way around there is the phenomenon of so called lucid dreams where the sleeper can somewhat control the contents and happenings of the dreams. These can be very entertaining and enjoyable, they say, but on the other hand they more strenuous than normal sleeping and dreaming.

One more idea about hallucinations: They happen always consciously, don’t they? Can there be non-conscious hallucinations? If they are necessarily connected to consciousness then they must be studied in near connection to the PCT study of consciousness.