Transient activation of a somatosensory area in painful hallucinations shown by fMRI

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The disturbance of somatosensory perception and bodily experiences, including somatosensory hallucinations, are main features of the coenaesthesia sub-syndrome of schizophrenia. We used functional MRI to study a coenaesthesia patient with rapidly fluctuating painful somatosensory hallucinatory perceptions. Transient brain activations accompanying hallucinations were similar to the pattern elicited in a control experiment (non-painful tactile stimulation). However, an area in the medial parietal cortex, including parts of the precuneus and previously characterised as a supplementary sensory area, was activated significantly stronger during hallucinations than the control condition. This finding demonstrates elevated brain activity in a somatosensory area accompanying painful somatic hallucinations.

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