Why Parkinson’s patients see ghosts: Scientists discover abnormalities in the frontal-temporal brain of patients that can cause hallucinations
- Half of PwPs experience ‘presence halucinations’, scientists say
- A study using brain imaging and robotics has revealed brain abnormalities
- Hallucinations often occur before other symptoms appear
Scientists have discovered a frontal-temporal disconnection that could explain why people with Parkinson’s think they can see ghosts.
About half of the people who suffer from the disease experience ‘presence hallucinations’ that cause them to feel a shadowy presence in the neighborhood.
The spontaneous nature of the event makes the phenomena difficult to study.
Scientists have discovered a frontal-temporal disconnection that could explain why people with Parkinson’s think they can see ghosts
PARKINSON’S DISEASE EXPLAINED
Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people, including about 145,000 people in the UK.
It causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbances, chronic fatigue, decreased quality of life and can lead to severe disability.
It is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.
Patients are known to have a reduced supply of dopamine because their nerve cells that make it have died.
There is currently no cure and no way to stop the progression of the disease, but hundreds of scientific studies are working to change that.
A new study using brain imaging and robotics has revealed abnormalities in the brain that could explain this.
Professor Olaf Blanke of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology told Reuters: “The system is actually quite simple.
‘One robot stands in front of the subject and measures the movement and the second robot sends signals back to the person we are testing, Parkinson’s patients or healthy subjects, and then when we cause a mismatch, so if the front robot does something different from the rear robot, this is the state in which the “presence hallucination” occurs. ‘
Minor hallucinations often occur before other Parkinson’s symptoms, such as tremors and muscle stiffness.
People with more severe hallucinations are likely to have greater cognitive decline as the disease progresses.
Information about the hallucinations is scarce because patients are often embarrassed to report them, scientists argue.
Joseph Rey, experiencing the visions, said, “They feel like angels protecting me. They don’t hurt me. They follow me everywhere. It’s comforting in a way, because I’m not alone. ‘
The study involved 56 PwPs in Switzerland and Spain.
Although the disease has traditionally been defined as a movement disorder, some patients also suffer from mental symptoms such as psychosis, depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia.
Researchers say the growing evidence suggests that hallucinations may be the precursors to these more serious psychological symptoms, but they often remain underdiagnosed.