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Musical hallucinations

It happens, probably with everyone, which is already there. Any Praskovia girl will hook, spin, spin, and stop. Another thing is when the melody starts to sound continuously and is perceived as if it comes from outside. This is the trouble.

“A song that plays in your head from time to time is normal. Another thing is musical hallucinations, they become a serious problem. People cannot sleep, cannot think,” says British psychiatrist Victor Aziz, who, along with a colleague Nick Warner recently again drew the attention of scientists to the psychopathological problem of “music in the brain.”

What are these hallucinations, and how it is to live with them – we will explain by example.

Once upon a time there was a 70-year-old woman in California, let’s call her Miss Maggie. One night she woke up from a small earthquake that was usual as rain in these parts. Finally, the earth stopped shaking and Maggie tried to fall asleep. But then she heard the melody – a sad old song in the spirit of “How young we were” sounded rather loudly in her head, but not deafeningly.

When Maggie was a girl, her father played the song on the piano. And now an elderly woman is sitting in bed listening, she cannot fall asleep. The song continues, repeating for hours. It is not known how, but Maggie managed to disconnect. In the morning she came to herself under the same “How young we were.”

The New York Times compared the brain of a person suffering from musical hallucinations with an iPod.

Gradually, within a few months, the repertoire was enriched, other melodies began to sound. Music often began to sound when Maggie went to bed or when she was driving. In any case, the “concert” lasted for several hours. The sound was always bright, as if an orchestra was playing nearby.

Of course, this woman began to strain. After some time, she found the only way to turn off the music in her head – unfortunately, for this to happen, the radio had to play a wedge.

At the same time, the melodies in my head had one more sinister quality: even the most beloved pieces of music that once sounded “inside” could not be perceived from ordinary sources, they were wildly irritated.

After several months of torture, Maggie decided to go to the doctor with her problem. Oddly enough, the story of the patient’s doctor was not surprised. He told the woman that she suffers from an obscure and rare disorder – musical hallucinations – and refers to a small but significant number of people who hear music that simply does not exist.

Most of the sufferers are elderly. The songs are often to them from the deepest “archives” of memory. Some sound Italian opera, which in ancient times was loved to listen to parents. Others have anthems, jazz or popular melodies.

Someone gets used and even gets pleasure, but such units. The bulk of the music tries to stop: they close windows and doors, stuff cotton wool into their ears, or sleep with a pillow on their heads – it doesn’t help, of course.

Meanwhile, musical hallucinations are not a new phenomenon, they have invaded the minds of people of past centuries. For example, the famous composer Robert Schumann hallucinated music at the end of his life and recorded this fact – he told his descendants that he wrote under the dictation of the ghost of Schubert.

But for a long time these hallucinations were not recognized by doctors as an independent disorder. There have been attempts to link musical hallucinations with a whole range of human conditions, including old age, deafness, brain tumors, drug overdose, and even liver transplants.

But one thing was clear: the musical ones should not be confused and mixed with other hallucinations, such as voices and visions, since a person can listen to melodies without any other distortion of reality.

Robert Schumann confessed to hallucinations.

The first large-scale study of musical hallucinations was conducted in a Japanese psychiatric hospital in 1998. It was found that they hear music in the head of 6 out of 3 thousand 678 patients. This ratio, however, does not reflect the real state of affairs, since all patients had serious mental disorders.

So, Japanese psychiatrists and their few followers found out that our brain processes music through a unique network of neurons. First, the sounds at the entrance to the brain activate a region near the ears, called the primary auditory cortex, which begins to process sounds at their most basic level.

Then, the auditory cortex transmits its own signals to other areas that can recognize more complex features of music, such as rhythm and melody.

It turned out that this network of neurons in the auditory cortex can begin to work in the wrong way, without affecting any other areas of the brain with its “malfunction”.

Timothy Griffiths, a British expert on hearing loss from Newcastle University Medical School, continued his work in this area. Last year, he studied six elderly patients in whom musical hallucinations appeared along with deafness.

With the help of positron emission tomography, the scientist discovered several areas in the brain, which became more active during musical hallucinations. The result of the doctor puzzled: “I saw almost the same as that of normal people who listen to music,” Griffiths admitted.

The main difference, he said, is that musical hallucinations do not activate the primary auditory cortex, but use only the parts of the brain responsible for transforming simple sounds into complex music.

According to Griffiths hypothesis, brain-processing regions of the brain continually search for patterns in the signals coming from the ears. Since these areas need a tune, they amplify certain sounds that fit the music and minimize extraneous noises.

When no sounds come to the ears, parts of the brain can try to grasp at least something, for random impulses and signals, try to create some kind of structure from them, delving into the memories. So a few notes can suddenly turn into a familiar melody.

For most of us, this may result in the production of a song that is difficult, but it will get out of our head, as the constant flow of information entering our ears suppresses this music. The deaf of this stream, of course, no, so they can hear music all the time.

Suppose Griffiths figured out with musical hallucinations in the deaf. But what about hearing people, like Miss Maggie? We return to the psychiatrist Victor Aziz. His research is the most recent and, as they say, the most extensive of all time.

According to British physicians, at the age of 65, one out of 10 thousand people suffer from music in their head (although it is impossible to establish true scale – many hide their melodies). That and the study of Aziz and Warner is valuable, as they analyzed as many as 30 cases of musical hallucination (the average patient was 78 years old, a third of them were deaf).

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