Re: musical hallucinations (Al Bregman )

Subject: Re: musical hallucinations
From:    Al Bregman  <al.bregman(at)MCGILL.CA>
Date:    Wed, 7 Aug 2002 12:53:09 -0400

Dear Diana, Bill, and list, A few years ago I became interested in top-down processes in auditory perception. I was aware of an example where a professor started a piece of music in his class, then gradually raised the noise and got each student to indicate when he or she could no longer hear the music. When the noise was intense, he shut off the music altogether. Some students continued to hear the music for some time. [I don't know the reference for this incident, or even if it is true, but it is widely cited.] I asked myself whether the preliminary playing of the music was really necessary. It happened that subsequently I was on a plane, near the engines at the back, in a very noisy spot. I told myself that I would hear music -- not just imagine it, but hear it through my ears. I listened for the music very hard. At first I only heard a couple of notes; eventually, as I strained to hear what was there, I could hear sustained melodies. With repeated practice, hearing the music became less and less effortful. To make a long story short, the dominant experiences were of marching music and male choirs. I tried it on another occasion with a different kind of noise. My belief is that the acoustic structure of the noise plays an important role in the nature of the hallucination, with the brain constructing interpretations that use the spectral distribution of the raw auditory experience. When medication is involved, the medication may be triggering tinnitus with specific spectral characteristics, and the brain tries to interpret the "sound" as meaningful signals. One question that occurs to me is where the rhythm comes from for the marching music. One's heartbeat would be a plausible source Regards, Al Bregman ------------------------------------------------- Albert S. Bregman, Emeritus Professor Dept of Psychology, McGill University 1205 Docteur Penfield Avenue Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1B1 Office: Phone: +1 (514) 398-6103 Fax: +1 (514) 398-4896 Home phone & Fax: +1 (514) 484-2592 Email: al.bregman(at) ------------------------------------------------- ----- Original Message ----- From: "Diana Deutsch" <ddeutsch(at)UCSD.EDU> To: <AUDITORY(at)LISTS.MCGILL.CA> Sent: 6-Aug-02 6:04 PM Subject: musical hallucinations > Hello Bill et al, > > The description your colleague gave is in line with many other > descriptions. Musical hallucinations tend to be of religious or > patriotic songs (such as are 'Amazing Grace' or 'The Battle Hymn of > the Republic'), and less often of folk tunes. They are most > frequently experienced as singing by male voices - often male choirs > or choruses - and less frequently as orchestral music. They most > often occur in elderly people who have some hearing loss; however, > this is just a statistic, and people of all ages can experience them. > They can be triggered by medications, such as high doses of aspirin > and beta blockers, and they are typically so vivid that sufferers > initially believe that the music is being played on a radio, through > a P.A. system, or outside on the street. As your colleague described, > the music that is 'heard' is superimposed on other sounds, including > other music, and comes and goes unexpectedly. > > I am in the initial stages of a study of musical hallucinations, and > would be very interested to hear about any other such cases. > > Best wishes, > > Diana > > > >Hello Auditory Gang, > > > >The following report comes from a retired colleague (male) who gave > >permission for this distribution. I promised to collect comments that > >you might have and send them on to him. It seems like an interesting case. > > > >Best wishes, > >Bill Hartmann > > > > > >"I have a loss of hearing of about 25% in my right ear. A few weeks ago I was > >sitting at home alone when I began to hear music which appeared to be > >associated with my right ear. The music was mostly simple songs such as > >patriotic tunes or religious songs, sometimes a few bars of classical music. A > >tune repeats itself for a while and then changes to another." > > > >"What is interesting about this is not the repetition. I have had tunes hung > >in my head before, which I suppose is very common. My previous experience > >with repeating tunes has only involved one tune at a time. I have not had this > >one tune experience in decades. What is different this time is that this > >music appears to play in the background all of the time, independent of what I > >am doing. It doesn't prevent any activities. I can become involved in > >activities and forget about it. However, as soon as these activities cease > >the music reappears in the middle of some tune. The reappearance is > >unexpected > >because I am not thinking about the music in any way whatsoever. The tune is > >different from the one that I ceased to hear when I began the activity. The > >music appears to switch from background to foreground whenever the outside > >sound has low volume. For example, I am now sitting alone at the computer and > >can hear it quite clearly. I can talk aloud to myself and still hear the tune > >in the background." > > > >"Associated with the music is a simple harmonic sound. The frequency is about > >that of a trombone. It rises and lowers as if the trombone were slurring up > >and down the scale. The range is about one octave. The sound is somewhat > >"buzzy" like an old fluorescent light." > > > >"The music and the accompanying sound are heard at all times independent of > >where I am. Another oddity is that the tunes increase in volume when I am > >driving on the expressway. This is very peculiar because the tunes appear to > >feed upon the noise of the expressway, which is just the opposite of what they > >normally do. Usually when outside noise increases the tunes disappear. Of > >course on the expressway a lot of the noise that I hear is periodic associated > >with the engine and tires, not white noise." > > > >"My only medicinal change is that I started taking a diuretic > >several days to a > >week before the music and harmonic sound began. I am on a large number of > >medications but have been on them for quite a while. I have had high blood > >pressure for many years which is controlled by lotensin. The only person in my > >family who has had hearing problems is my older brother. He had Meniere's > >disease and finally lost hearing in one ear. He often felt ill and off > >balance. I have not experienced this." > > > >end > > -- > ----------------------------------- > > Diana Deutsch > Professor of Psychology > Department of Psychology > University of California, San Diego > La Jolla, CA 92093, USA > > 858-453-1558 (tel) > 858-453-4763 (fax) > ddeutsch(at) > > > ----------------------------------- >

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