What is Paraphrenia?

Introduction

Paraphrenia is a mental disorder characterised by an organised system of paranoid delusions with or without hallucinations (the positive symptoms of schizophrenia) and without deterioration of intellect or personality (its negative symptom).

This disorder is also distinguished from schizophrenia by a lower hereditary occurrence, less premorbid maladjustment, and a slower rate of progression. Onset of symptoms generally occurs later in life, near the age of 60. The prevalence of the disorder among the elderly is between 0.1% and 4%.

Paraphrenia is not included in the DSM-5; psychiatrists often diagnose patients presenting with paraphrenia as having atypical psychosis, delusional disorder, psychosis not otherwise specified, schizoaffective disorders, and persistent persecutory states of older adults. Recently, mental health professionals have also been classifying paraphrenia as very late-onset schizophrenia-like psychosis.

In the Russian psychiatric manuals, paraphrenia (or paraphrenic syndrome) is the last stage of development of paranoid schizophrenia. “Systematised paraphrenia” (with systematised delusions i. e. delusions with complex logical structure) and “expansive-paranoid paraphrenia” (with expansive/grandiose delusions and persecutory delusions) are the variants of paranoid schizophrenia (F20.0). Sometimes systematised paraphrenia can be seen with delusional disorder (F22.0). The word is from Ancient Greek: παρά – beside, near + φρήν – intellect, mind.

Brief History

The term paraphrenia was originally popularised by Karl Ludwig Kahlbaum in 1863 to describe the tendency of certain psychiatric disorders to occur during certain transitional periods in life (describing paraphrenia hebetica as the insanity of the adolescence and paraphrenia senilis as the insanity of the elders.

The term was also used by Sigmund Freud for a short time starting in 1911 as an alternative to the terms schizophrenia and dementia praecox, which in his estimation did not correctly identify the underlying condition, and by Emil Kraepelin in 1912/1913, who changed its meaning to describe paraphrenia as it is understood today, as a small group of individuals that have many of the symptoms of schizophrenia with a lack of deterioration and thought disorder. Kraepelin’s study was discredited by Wilhelm Mayer in 1921 when he conducted a follow-up study using Kraepelin’s data. His study suggested that there was little to no discrimination between schizophrenia and paraphrenia; given enough time, patients presenting with paraphrenia will merge into the schizophrenic pool. However, Meyer’s data are open to various interpretations. In 1952, Roth and Morrissey conducted a large study in which they surveyed the mental hospital admissions of older patients. They characterised patients as having:

“paraphrenic delusions which… occurred in each case in the setting of a well-preserved intellect and personality, were often ‘primary’ in character, and were usually associated with the passivity failings or other volitional disturbances and hallucinations in clear consciousness pathognomonic of schizophrenia”.

In recent medicine, the term paraphrenia has been replaced by the diagnosis of “very late-onset schizophrenia-like psychosis” and has also been called “atypical psychoses, delusional disorder, psychoses not otherwise specified, schizoaffective disorders, and persistent persecutory states of older adults” by psychotherapists.[4] Current studies, however, recognize the condition as “a viable diagnostic entity that is distinct from schizophrenia, with organic factors playing a role in a significant portion of patients.”[4]

Signs and Symptoms

The main symptoms of paraphrenia are paranoid delusions and hallucinations. The delusions often involve the individual being the subject of persecution, although they can also be erotic, hypochondriacal, or grandiose in nature. The majority of hallucinations associated with paraphrenia are auditory, with 75% of patients reporting such an experience; however, visual, tactile, and olfactory hallucinations have also been reported. The paranoia and hallucinations can combine in the form of “threatening or accusatory voices coming from neighbouring houses [and] are frequently reported by the patients as disturbing and undeserved”. Patients also present with a lack of symptoms commonly found in other mental disorders similar to paraphrenia. There is no significant deterioration of intellect, personality, or habits and patients often remain clean and mostly self-sufficient. Patients also remain oriented well in time and space.

Paraphrenia is different from schizophrenia because, while both disorders result in delusions and hallucinations, individuals with schizophrenia exhibit changes and deterioration of personality whereas individuals with paraphrenia maintain a well-preserved personality and affective response.

Causes

Neurological

Paraphrenia is often associated with a physical change in the brain, such as a tumour, stroke, ventricular enlargement, or neurodegenerative process. Research that reviewed the relationship between organic brain lesions and the development of delusions suggested that “brain lesions which lead to subcortical dysfunction could produce delusions when elaborated by an intact cortex”.

Predisposing Factors

Many patients who present with paraphrenia have significant auditory or visual loss, are socially isolated with a lack of social contact, do not have a permanent home, are unmarried and without children, and have maladaptive personality traits. While these factors do not cause paraphrenia, they do make individuals more likely to develop the disorder later in life.

Diagnosis

While the diagnosis of paraphrenia is absent from recent revisions of the DSM and the ICD, many studies have recognised the condition as “a viable diagnostic entity that is distinct from schizophrenia, with organic factors playing a role in a significant portion of patients.” As such, paraphrenia is seen as being distinct from both schizophrenia and progressive dementia in old age. Ravindran (1999) developed a list of criteria for the diagnosis of paraphrenia, which agrees with much of the research done up to the time it was published.

  1. A delusional disorder of at least six months duration characterized by the following:
    1. Preoccupation with one or more semi-systematised delusions, often accompanied by auditory hallucinations.
    2. Affect notably well-preserved and appropriate. Ability to maintain rapport with others.
    3. None of:
      1. Intellectual deterioration.
      2. Visual hallucinations.
      3. Incoherence.
      4. Flat or grossly inappropriate affect.
      5. Grossly disorganised behaviour at times other than during the acute episode.
    4. Disturbance of behaviour understandable in relation to the content of the delusions and hallucinations.
    5. Only partly meets criterion A for schizophrenia. No significant organic brain disorder.

Management

Research suggests that paraphrenics respond well to antipsychotic drug therapy if doctors can successfully achieve sufficient compliance. Herbert found that Stelazine combined with Disipal was an effective treatment. It promoted the discharging of patients and kept discharged patients from being readmitted later. While behaviour therapy may help patients reduce their preoccupation with delusions, psychotherapy is not currently of primary value.

Prognosis

Individuals who develop paraphrenia have a life expectancy similar to the normal population. Recovery from the psychotic symptoms seems to be rare, and in most cases paraphrenia results in in-patient status for the remainder of the life of the patient. Patients experience a slow deterioration of cognitive functions and the disorder can lead to dementia in some cases, but this development is no greater than the normal population.

Epidemiology

Studies suggest that the prevalence of paraphrenia in the elderly population is around 2-4%.

Sex Differences

While paraphrenia can occur in both men and women, it is more common in women, even after the difference has been adjusted for life expectancies. The ratio of women with paraphrenia to men with paraphrenia is anywhere from 3:1 to 45:2.

Age

It is seen mainly in patients over the age of 60, but has been known to occur in patients in their 40s and 50s.

Personality Type and Living Situation

It is suggested that individuals who develop paraphrenia later in life have premorbid personalities, and can be described as “quarrelsome, religious, suspicious or sensitive, unsociable and cold-hearted.” Many patients were also described as being solitary, eccentric, isolated and difficult individuals; these characteristics were also long-standing rather than introduced by the disorder. Most of the traits recognised prior to the onset of paraphrenia in individuals can be grouped as either paranoid or schizoid. Patients presenting with paraphrenia were most often found to be living by themselves (either single, widowed, or divorced). There have also been reports of low marriage rate among paraphrenics and these individuals also have few or no children (possibly because of this premorbid personality).

Physical Factors

The development of paranoia and hallucinations in old age have been related to both auditory and visual impairment, and individuals with paraphrenia often present with one or both of these impairments. Hearing loss in paraphrenics is associated with early age of onset, long duration, and profound auditory loss.

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What is Metacognition?

Introduction

Metacognition is an awareness of one’s thought processes and an understanding of the patterns behind them. The term comes from the root word meta, meaning “beyond”, or “on top of”. Metacognition can take many forms, such as reflecting on one’s ways of thinking and knowing when and how to use particular strategies for problem-solving. There are generally two components of metacognition:

  • Knowledge about cognition; and
  • Regulation of cognition.

Metamemory, defined as knowing about memory and mnemonic strategies, is an especially important form of metacognition. Academic research on metacognitive processing across cultures is in the early stages, but there are indications that further work may provide better outcomes in cross-cultural learning between teachers and students.

Writings on metacognition date back at least as far as two works by the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC): On the Soul and the Parva Naturalia.

Definitions

This higher-level cognition was given the label metacognition by American developmental psychologist John H. Flavell (1976).

The term metacognition literally means ‘above cognition’, and is used to indicate cognition about cognition, or more informally, thinking about thinking. Flavell defined metacognition as knowledge about cognition and control of cognition. For example, a person is engaging in metacognition if they notice that they are having more trouble learning A than B, or if it strikes them that they should double-check C before accepting it as fact. J.H. Flavell (1976, p. 232). Andreas Demetriou’s theory (one of the neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development) used the term hyper-cognition to refer to self-monitoring, self-representation, and self-regulation processes, which are regarded as integral components of the human mind. Moreover, with his colleagues, he showed that these processes participate in general intelligence, together with processing efficiency and reasoning, which have traditionally been considered to compose fluid intelligence.

Metacognition also involves thinking about one’s own thinking process such as study skills, memory capabilities, and the ability to monitor learning. This concept needs to be explicitly taught along with content instruction.

Metacognitive knowledge is about one’s own cognitive processes and the understanding of how to regulate those processes to maximize learning.

Some types of metacognitive knowledge would include:

TypeOutline
Content Knowledge (Declarative Knowledge)Content knowledge (declarative knowledge) which is understanding one’s own capabilities, such as a student evaluating their own knowledge of a subject in a class. It is notable that not all metacognition is accurate. Studies have shown that students often mistake lack of effort with understanding in evaluating themselves and their overall knowledge of a concept.[10] Also, greater confidence in having performed well is associated with less accurate metacognitive judgment of the performance.
Task Knowledge (Procedural Knowledge)Task knowledge (procedural knowledge), which is how one perceives the difficulty of a task which is the content, length, and the type of assignment. The study mentioned in Content knowledge also deals with a person’s ability to evaluate the difficulty of a task related to their overall performance on the task. Again, the accuracy of this knowledge was skewed as students who thought their way was better/easier also seemed to perform worse on evaluations, while students who were rigorously and continually evaluated reported to not be as confident but still did better on initial evaluations.
Strategic Knowledge (Conditional Knowledge)Strategic knowledge (conditional knowledge) which is one’s own capability for using strategies to learn information. Young children are not particularly good at this; it is not until students are in upper elementary school that they begin to develop an understanding of effective strategies.

Metacognition is a general term encompassing the study of memory-monitoring and self-regulation, meta-reasoning, consciousness/awareness and autonoetic consciousness/self-awareness. In practice these capacities are used to regulate one’s own cognition, to maximise one’s potential to think, learn and to the evaluation of proper ethical/moral rules. It can also lead to a reduction in response time for a given situation as a result of heightened awareness, and potentially reduce the time to complete problems or tasks.

In the domain of experimental psychology, an influential distinction in metacognition (proposed by T.O. Nelson & L. Narens) is between Monitoring – making judgements about the strength of one’s memories – and Control – using those judgments to guide behaviour (in particular, to guide study choices). Dunlosky, Serra, and Baker (2007) covered this distinction in a review of metamemory research that focused on how findings from this domain can be applied to other areas of applied research.

In the domain of cognitive neuroscience, metacognitive monitoring and control has been viewed as a function of the prefrontal cortex, which receives (monitors) sensory signals from other cortical regions and implements control using feedback loops (see chapters by Schwartz & Bacon and Shimamura, in Dunlosky & Bjork, 2008).

Metacognition is studied in the domain of artificial intelligence and modelling. Therefore, it is the domain of interest of emergent systemics.

Components

Metacognition is classified into three components:

  1. Metacognitive knowledge (also called metacognitive awareness) is what individuals know about themselves and others as cognitive processors.
  2. Metacognitive regulation is the regulation of cognition and learning experiences through a set of activities that help people control their learning.
  3. Metacognitive experiences are those experiences that have something to do with the current, on-going cognitive endeavour.

Metacognition refers to a level of thinking that involves active control over the process of thinking that is used in learning situations. Planning the way to approach a learning task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating the progress towards the completion of a task: these are skills that are metacognitive in their nature.

Metacognition includes at least three different types of metacognitive awareness when considering metacognitive knowledge:

  1. Declarative knowledge: refers to knowledge about oneself as a learner and about what factors can influence one’s performance. Declarative knowledge can also be referred to as “world knowledge”.
  2. Procedural knowledge: refers to knowledge about doing things. This type of knowledge is displayed as heuristics and strategies. A high degree of procedural knowledge can allow individuals to perform tasks more automatically. This is achieved through a large variety of strategies that can be accessed more efficiently.
  3. Conditional knowledge: refers to knowing when and why to use declarative and procedural knowledge. It allows students to allocate their resources when using strategies. This in turn allows the strategies to become more effective.

Similar to metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive regulation or “regulation of cognition” contains three skills that are essential.

  1. Planning: refers to the appropriate selection of strategies and the correct allocation of resources that affect task performance.
  2. Monitoring: refers to one’s awareness of comprehension and task performance
  3. Evaluating: refers to appraising the final product of a task and the efficiency at which the task was performed. This can include re-evaluating strategies that were used.

Similarly, maintaining motivation to see a task to completion is also a metacognitive skill. The ability to become aware of distracting stimuli – both internal and external – and sustain effort over time also involves metacognitive or executive functions. The theory that metacognition has a critical role to play in successful learning means it is important that it be demonstrated by both students and teachers.

Students who underwent metacognitive training including pretesting, self evaluation, and creating study plans performed better on exams. They are self-regulated learners who utilise the “right tool for the job” and modify learning strategies and skills based on their awareness of effectiveness. Individuals with a high level of metacognitive knowledge and skill identify blocks to learning as early as possible and change “tools” or strategies to ensure goal attainment. Swanson (1990) found that metacognitive knowledge can compensate for IQ and lack of prior knowledge when comparing fifth and sixth grade students’ problem solving. Students with a high-metacognition were reported to have used fewer strategies, but solved problems more effectively than low-metacognition students, regardless of IQ or prior knowledge. In one study examining students who send text messages during college lectures, it was suggested that students with higher metacognitive abilities were less likely than other students to have their learning affected by using a mobile phone in class.

The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. Bertrand Russell.

Metacognologists are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, the nature of the task at hand, and available “tools” or skills. A broader repertoire of “tools” also assists in goal attainment. When “tools” are general, generic, and context independent, they are more likely to be useful in different types of learning situations.

Another distinction in metacognition is executive management and strategic knowledge. Executive management processes involve planning, monitoring, evaluating and revising one’s own thinking processes and products. Strategic knowledge involves knowing what (factual or declarative knowledge), knowing when and why (conditional or contextual knowledge) and knowing how (procedural or methodological knowledge). Both executive management and strategic knowledge metacognition are needed to self-regulate one’s own thinking and learning.

Finally, there is no distinction between domain-general and domain-specific metacognitive skills. This means that metacognitive skills are domain-general in nature and there are no specific skills for certain subject areas. The metacognitive skills that are used to review an essay are the same as those that are used to verify an answer to a math question.

Social Metacognition

Although metacognition has thus far been discussed in relation to the self, recent research in the field has suggested that this view is overly restrictive. Instead, it is argued that metacognition research should also include beliefs about others’ mental processes, the influence of culture on those beliefs, and on beliefs about ourselves. This “expansionist view” proposes that it is impossible to fully understand metacognition without considering the situational norms and cultural expectations that influence those same conceptions. This combination of social psychology and metacognition is referred to as social metacognition.

Social metacognition can include ideas and perceptions that relate to social cognition. Additionally, social metacognition can include judging the cognition of others, such as judging the perceptions and emotional states of others. This is in part because the process of judging others is similar to judging the self. However, individuals have less information about the people they are judging; therefore, judging others tends to be more inaccurate. Having similar cognitions can buffer against this inaccuracy and can be helpful for teams or organisations, as well as interpersonal relationships.

Social Metacognition and the Self Concept

An example of the interaction between social metacognition and self-concept can be found in examining implicit theories about the self. Implicit theories can cover a wide range of constructs about how the self operates, but two are especially relevant here; entity theory and incrementalist theory. Entity theory proposes that an individual’s self-attributes and abilities are fixed and stable, while incrementalist theory proposes that these same constructs can be changed through effort and experience. Entity theorists are susceptible to learned helplessness because they may feel that circumstances are outside their control (i.e. there is nothing that could have been done to make things better), thus they may give up easily. Incremental theorists react differently when faced with failure: they desire to master challenges, and therefore adopt a mastery-oriented pattern. They immediately began to consider various ways that they could approach the task differently, and they increase their efforts. Cultural beliefs can act on this as well. For example, a person who has accepted a cultural belief that memory loss is an unavoidable consequence of old age may avoid cognitively demanding tasks as they age, thus accelerating cognitive decline. Similarly, a woman who is aware of the stereotype that purports that women are not good at mathematics may perform worse on tests of mathematical ability or avoid mathematics altogether. These examples demonstrate that the metacognitive beliefs people hold about the self – which may be socially or culturally transmitted – can have important effects on persistence, performance, and motivation.

Attitudes as a Function of Social Metacognition

The way that individuals think about attitude greatly affects the way that they behave. Metacognitions about attitudes influence how individuals act, and especially how they interact with others.

Some metacognitive characteristics of attitudes include importance, certainty, and perceived knowledge, and they influence behaviour in different ways. Attitude importance is the strongest predictor of behaviour and can predict information seeking behaviours in individuals. Attitude importance is also more likely to influence behaviour than certainty of the attitude. When considering a social behaviour like voting a person may hold high importance but low certainty. This means that they will likely vote, even if they are unsure whom to vote for. Meanwhile, a person who is very certain of who they want to vote for, may not actually vote if it is of low importance to them. This also applies to interpersonal relationships. A person might hold a lot of favourable knowledge about their family, but they may not maintain close relations with their family if it is of low importance.

Metacognitive characteristics of attitudes may be key to understanding how attitudes change. Research shows that the frequency of positive or negative thoughts is the biggest factor in attitude change. A person may believe that climate change is occurring but have negative thoughts toward it such as “If I accept the responsibilities of climate change, I must change my lifestyle”. These individuals would not likely change their behaviour compared to someone that thinks positively about the same issue such as “By using less electricity, I will be helping the planet”.

Another way to increase the likelihood of behaviour change is by influencing the source of the attitude. An individual’s personal thoughts and ideas have a much greater impact on the attitude compared to ideas of others. Therefore, when people view lifestyle changes as coming from themselves, the effects are more powerful than if the changes were coming from a friend or family member. These thoughts can be re-framed in a way that emphasizes personal importance, such as “I want to stop smoking because it is important to me” rather than “quitting smoking is important to my family”. More research needs to be conducted on culture differences and importance of group ideology, which may alter these results.

Social Metacognition and Stereotypes

People have secondary cognitions about the appropriateness, justifiability, and social judgability of their own stereotypic beliefs. People know that it is typically unacceptable to make stereotypical judgments and make conscious efforts not to do so. Subtle social cues can influence these conscious efforts. For example, when given a false sense of confidence about their ability to judge others, people will return to relying on social stereotypes. Cultural backgrounds influence social metacognitive assumptions, including stereotypes. For example, cultures without the stereotype that memory declines with old age display no age differences in memory performance.

When it comes to making judgements about other people, implicit theories about the stability versus malleability of human characteristics predict differences in social stereotyping as well. Holding an entity theory of traits increases the tendency for people to see similarity among group members and utilise stereotyped judgments. For example, compared to those holding incremental beliefs, people who hold entity beliefs of traits use more stereotypical trait judgements of ethnic and occupational groups as well as form more extreme trait judgments of new groups. When an individual’s assumptions about a group combine with their implicit theories, more stereotypical judgements may be formed. Stereotypes that one believes others hold about them are called metastereotypes.

Animal Metacognition

In Nonhuman Primates

Chimpanzees

Beran, Smith, and Perdue (2013) found that chimpanzees showed metacognitive monitoring in the information-seeking task. In their studies, three language-trained chimpanzees were asked to use the keyboard to name the food item in order to get the food. The food in the container was either visible to them or they had to move toward the container to see its contents. Studies shown that chimpanzees were more often to check what was in the container first if the food in the container was hidden. But when the food was visible to them, the chimpanzees were more likely to directly approach the keyboard and reported the identity of the food without looking again in the container. Their results suggested that chimpanzees know what they have seen and show effective information-seeking behaviour when information is incomplete.

Rhesus Macaques (Macaca Mulatta)

Morgan et al. (2014) investigated whether rhesus macaques can make both retrospective and prospective metacognitive judgements on the same memory task. Risk choices were introduced to assess the monkey’s confidence about their memories. Two male rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were trained in a computerised token economy task first in which they can accumulate tokens to exchange food rewards. Monkeys were presented with multiple images of common objects simultaneously and then a moving border appearing on the screen indicating the target. Immediately following the presentation, the target images and some distractors were shown in the test. During the training phase, monkeys received immediate feedback after they made responses. They can earn two tokens if they make correct choices but lost two tokens if they were wrong.

In Experiment 1, the confidence rating was introduced after they completed their responses in order to test the retrospective metamemory judgements. After each response, a high-risk and a low-risk choice were provided to the monkeys. They could earn one token regardless of their accuracy if they choose the low-risk option. When they chose high-risk, they were rewarded with three tokens if their memory response was correct on that trial but lost three tokens if they made incorrect responses. Morgan and colleagues (2014) found a significant positive correlation between memory accuracy and risk choice in two rhesus monkeys. That is, they were more likely to select the high-risk option if they answered correctly in the working memory task but select the low-risk option if they were failed in the memory task.

Then Morgan et al. (2014) examine monkeys’ prospective metacognitive monitoring skills in Experiment 2. This study employed the same design except that two monkeys were asked to make low-risk or high-risk confidence judgement before they make actual responses to measure their judgements about future events. Similarly, the monkeys were more often to choose high-risk confidence judgment before answering correctly in working memory task and tended to choose the low-risk option before providing an incorrect response. These two studies indicated that rhesus monkeys can accurately monitor their performance and provided evidence of metacognitive abilities in monkeys.

In Rats

In addition to nonhuman primates, other animals are also shown metacognition. Foote and Crystal (2007) provided the first evidence that rats have the knowledge of what they know in a perceptual discrimination task. Rats were required to classify brief noises as short or long. Some noises with intermediate durations were difficult to discriminate as short or long. Rats were provided with an option to decline to take the test on some trials but were forced to make responses on other trials. If they chose to take the test and respond correctly, they would receive a high reward but no reward if their classification of noises was incorrect. But if the rats decline to take the test, they would be guaranteed a smaller reward. The results showed that rats were more likely to decline to take the test when the difficulty of noise discrimination increased, suggesting rats knew they do not have the correct answers and declined to take the test to receive the reward. Another finding is that the performance was better when they had chosen to take the test compared with if the rats were forced to make responses, proving that some uncertain trials were declined to improve the accuracy.

These responses pattern might be attributed to actively monitor their own mental states. Alternatively, external cues such as environmental cue associations could be used to explain their behaviours in the discrimination task. Rats might have learned the association between intermediate stimuli and the decline option over time. Longer response latencies or some features inherent to stimuli can serve as discriminative cues to decline tests. Therefore, Templer, Lee, and Preston (2017) utilised an olfactory-based delayed match to sample (DMTS) memory task to assess whether rats were capable of metacognitive responding adaptively. Rats were exposed to sample odour first and chose to either decline or take the four-choice memory test after a delay. The correct choices of odour were associated with high reward and incorrect choices have no reward. The decline options were accompanied by a small reward.

In experiment 2, some “no-sample” trials were added in the memory test in which no odour was provided before the test. They hypothesized that rats would decline more often when there was no sample odour presented compared with odour presented if rats could internally assess the memory strength. Alternatively, if the decline option was motivated by external environmental cues, the rats would be less likely to decline the test because no available external cues were presented. The results showed that rats were more likely to decline the test in no-sample trials relative to normal sample trials, supporting the notion that rats can track their internal memory strength.

To rule out other potential possibilities, they also manipulated memory strength by providing the sampled odour twice and varying the retention interval between the learning and the test. Templer and colleagues (2017) found rats were less likely to decline the test if they had been exposed to the sample twice, suggesting that their memory strength for these samples was increased. Longer delayed sample test was more often declined than short delayed test because their memory was better after the short delay. Overall, their series of studies demonstrated that rats could distinguish between remembering and forgetting and rule out the possibilities that decline use was modulated by the external cues such as environmental cue associations.

In Pigeons

Research on metacognition of pigeons has shown limited success. Inman and Shettleworth (1999) employed the delayed match to sample (DMTS) procedure to test pigeons’ metacognition. Pigeons were presented with one of three sample shapes (a triangle, a square, or a star) and then they were required to peck the matched sample when three stimuli simultaneously appeared on the screen at the end of the retention interval. A safe key was also presented in some trials next to three sample stimuli which allow them to decline that trial. Pigeons received a high reward for pecking correct stimuli, a middle-level reward for pecking the safe key, and nothing if they pecked the wrong stimuli. Inman and Shettleworth’s (1999) first experiment found that pigeons’ accuracies were lower and they were more likely to choose the safe key as the retention interval between presentation of stimuli and test increased. However, in Experiment 2, when pigeons were presented with the option to escape or take the test before the test phase, there was no relationship between choosing the safe key and longer retention interval. Adams and Santi (2011) also employed the DMTS procedure in a perceptual discrimination task during which pigeons were trained to discriminate between durations of illumination. Pigeons did not choose the escape option more often as the retention interval increased during initial testing. After extended training, they learned to escape the difficult trials. However, these patterns might be attributed to the possibility that pigeons learned the association between escape responses and longer retention delay.

In addition to DMTS paradigm, Castro and Wasserman (2013) proved that pigeons can exhibit adaptive and efficient information-seeking behaviour in the same-different discrimination task. Two arrays of items were presented simultaneously in which the two sets of items were either identical or different from one another. Pigeons were required to distinguish between the two arrays of items in which the level of difficulty was varied. Pigeons were provided with an “Information” button and a “Go” button on some trials that they could increase the number of items in the arrays to make the discrimination easier or they can prompt to make responses by pecking the Go button. Castro and Wasserman found that the more difficult the task, the more often pigeons chose the information button to solve the discrimination task. This behavioural pattern indicated that pigeons could evaluate the difficulty of the task internally and actively search for information when is necessary.

In Dogs

Dogs have shown a certain level of metacognition that they are sensitive to information they have acquired or not. Belger & Bräuer (2018) examined whether dogs could seek additional information when facing uncertain situations. The experimenter put the reward behind one of the two fences in which dogs can see or cannot see where the reward was hidden. After that, dogs were encouraged to find the reward by walking around one fence. The dogs checked more frequently before selecting the fence when they did not see the baiting process compared with when they saw where the reward was hidden. However, contrary to apes, dogs did not show more checking behaviours when the delay between baiting the reward and selecting the fence was longer. Their findings suggested that dogs have some aspect of information-searching behaviours but less flexibly compared to apes.

In Dolphins

Smith et al. (1995) evaluated whether dolphins have the ability of metacognitive monitoring in an auditory threshold paradigm. A bottlenosed dolphin was trained to discriminate between high-frequency tones and low-frequency tones. An escape option was available on some trials associated with a small reward. Their studies showed that dolphins could appropriately use the uncertain response when the trials were difficult to discriminate.

Debate

There is consensus that nonhuman primates, especially great apes and rhesus monkeys, exhibit metacognitive control and monitoring behaviours. But less convergent evidence was found in other animals such as rats and pigeons. Some researchers criticised these methods and posited that these performances might be accounted for by low-level conditioning mechanisms. Animals learned the association between reward and external stimuli through simple reinforcement models. However, many studies have demonstrated that the reinforcement model alone cannot explain animals’ behavioural patterns. Animals have shown adaptive metacognitive behaviour even with the absence of concrete reward.

Strategies

Metacognitive-like processes are especially ubiquitous when it comes to the discussion of self-regulated learning. Self-regulation requires metacognition by looking at one’s awareness of their learning and planning further learning methodology. Attentive metacognition is a salient feature of good self-regulated learners, but does not guarantee automatic application. Reinforcing collective discussion of metacognition is a salient feature of self-critical and self-regulating social groups. The activities of strategy selection and application include those concerned with an ongoing attempt to plan, check, monitor, select, revise, evaluate, etc.

Metacognition is ‘stable’ in that learners’ initial decisions derive from the pertinent facts about their cognition through years of learning experience. Simultaneously, it is also ‘situated’ in the sense that it depends on learners’ familiarity with the task, motivation, emotion, and so forth. Individuals need to regulate their thoughts about the strategy they are using and adjust it based on the situation to which the strategy is being applied. At a professional level, this has led to emphasis on the development of reflective practice, particularly in the education and health-care professions.

Recently, the notion has been applied to the study of second language learners in the field of TESOL and applied linguistics in general (e.g. Wenden, 1987; Zhang, 2001, 2010). This new development has been much related to Flavell (1979), where the notion of metacognition is elaborated within a tripartite theoretical framework. Learner metacognition is defined and investigated by examining their person knowledge, task knowledge and strategy knowledge.

Wenden (1991) has proposed and used this framework and Zhang (2001) has adopted this approach and investigated second language learners’ metacognition or metacognitive knowledge. In addition to exploring the relationships between learner metacognition and performance, researchers are also interested in the effects of metacognitively-oriented strategic instruction on reading comprehension (e.g. Garner, 1994, in first language contexts, and Chamot, 2005; Zhang, 2010). The efforts are aimed at developing learner autonomy, interdependence and self-regulation.

Metacognition helps people to perform many cognitive tasks more effectively. Strategies for promoting metacognition include self-questioning (e.g. “What do I already know about this topic? How have I solved problems like this before?”), thinking aloud while performing a task, and making graphic representations (e.g. concept maps, flow charts, semantic webs) of one’s thoughts and knowledge. Carr, 2002, argues that the physical act of writing plays a large part in the development of metacognitive skills.

Strategy Evaluation matrices (SEM) can help to improve the knowledge of cognition component of metacognition. The SEM works by identifying the declarative (Column 1), procedural (Column 2) and conditional (Column 3 and 4) knowledge about specific strategies. The SEM can help individuals identify the strength and weaknesses about certain strategies as well as introduce them to new strategies that they can add to their repertoire.

A regulation checklist (RC) is a useful strategy for improving the regulation of cognition aspect of one’s metacognition. RCs help individuals to implement a sequence of thoughts that allow them to go over their own metacognition. King (1991) found that fifth-grade students who used a regulation checklist outperformed control students when looking at a variety of questions including written problem solving, asking strategic questions, and elaborating information.

Examples of strategies that can be taught to students are word analysis skills, active reading strategies, listening skills, organisational skills and creating mnemonic devices.

Walker and Walker have developed a model of metacognition in school learning termed Steering Cognition, which describes the capacity of the mind to exert conscious control over its reasoning and processing strategies in relation to the external learning task. Studies have shown that pupils with an ability to exert metacognitive regulation over their attentional and reasoning strategies used when engaged in maths, and then shift those strategies when engaged in science or then English literature learning, associate with higher academic outcomes at secondary school.

Metastrategic Knowledge

“Metastrategic knowledge” (MSK) is a sub-component of metacognition that is defined as general knowledge about higher order thinking strategies. MSK had been defined as “general knowledge about the cognitive procedures that are being manipulated”. The knowledge involved in MSK consists of “making generalizations and drawing rules regarding a thinking strategy” and of “naming” the thinking strategy.

The important conscious act of a metastrategic strategy is the “conscious” awareness that one is performing a form of higher order thinking. MSK is an awareness of the type of thinking strategies being used in specific instances and it consists of the following abilities:

  • Making generalisations and drawing rules regarding a thinking strategy;
  • Naming the thinking strategy,
  • Explaining when, why and how such a thinking strategy should be used;
  • When it should not be used;
  • What are the disadvantages of not using appropriate strategies; and
  • What task characteristics call for the use of the strategy.

MSK deals with the broader picture of the conceptual problem. It creates rules to describe and understand the physical world around the people who utilise these processes called higher-order thinking. This is the capability of the individual to take apart complex problems in order to understand the components in problem. These are the building blocks to understanding the “big picture” (of the main problem) through reflection and problem solving.

Action

Both social and cognitive dimensions of sporting expertise can be adequately explained from a metacognitive perspective according to recent research. The potential of metacognitive inferences and domain-general skills including psychological skills training are integral to the genesis of expert performance. Moreover, the contribution of both mental imagery (e.g. mental practice) and attentional strategies (e.g. routines) to our understanding of expertise and metacognition is noteworthy. The potential of metacognition to illuminate our understanding of action was first highlighted by Aidan Moran who discussed the role of meta-attention in 1996. A recent research initiative, a research seminar series called META funded by the BPS, is exploring the role of the related constructs of meta-motivation, meta-emotion, and thinking and action (metacognition).

Mental Illness

Sparks of Interest

In the context of mental health, metacognition can be loosely defined as the process that “reinforces one’s subjective sense of being a self and allows for becoming aware that some of one’s thoughts and feelings are symptoms of an illness”. The interest in metacognition emerged from a concern for an individual’s ability to understand their own mental status compared to others as well as the ability to cope with the source of their distress. These insights into an individual’s mental health status can have a profound effect on overall prognosis and recovery. Metacognition brings many unique insights into the normal daily functioning of a human being. It also demonstrates that a lack of these insights compromises ‘normal’ functioning. This leads to less healthy functioning. In the autism spectrum, it is speculated that there is a profound deficit in Theory of Mind. In people who identify as alcoholics, there is a belief that the need to control cognition is an independent predictor of alcohol use over anxiety. Alcohol may be used as a coping strategy for controlling unwanted thoughts and emotions formed by negative perceptions. This is sometimes referred to as self medication.

Implications

Adrian Wells’ and Gerald Matthews’ theory proposes that when faced with an undesired choice, an individual can operate in two distinct modes: “object” and “metacognitive”. Object mode interprets perceived stimuli as truth, where metacognitive mode understands thoughts as cues that have to be weighted and evaluated. They are not as easily trusted. There are targeted interventions unique of each patient, that gives rise to the belief that assistance in increasing metacognition in people diagnosed with schizophrenia is possible through tailored psychotherapy. With a customised therapy in place clients then have the potential to develop greater ability to engage in complex self-reflection. This can ultimately be pivotal in the patient’s recovery process. In the obsessive-compulsive spectrum, cognitive formulations have greater attention to intrusive thoughts related to the disorder. “Cognitive self-consciousness” are the tendencies to focus attention on thought. Patients with OCD exemplify varying degrees of these “intrusive thoughts”. Patients also with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) also show negative thought process in their cognition.

Cognitive-attentional syndrome (CAS) characterises a metacognitive model of emotion disorder (CAS is consistent with the attention strategy of excessively focusing on the source of a threat). This ultimately develops through the client’s own beliefs. Metacognitive therapy attempts to correct this change in the CAS. One of the techniques in this model is called attention training (ATT). It was designed to diminish the worry and anxiety by a sense of control and cognitive awareness. ATT also trains clients to detect threats and test how controllable reality appears to be.

Following the work of Asher Koriat, who regards confidence as central aspect of metacognition, metacognitive training for psychosis aims at decreasing overconfidence in patients with schizophrenia and raising awareness of cognitive biases. According to a meta-analysis, this type of intervention improves delusions and hallucinations.

Works of Art as Metacognitive Artefacts

The concept of metacognition has also been applied to reader-response criticism. Narrative works of art, including novels, movies and musical compositions, can be characterised as metacognitive artefacts which are designed by the artist to anticipate and regulate the beliefs and cognitive processes of the recipient, for instance, how and in which order events and their causes and identities are revealed to the reader of a detective story. As Menakhem Perry has pointed out, mere order has profound effects on the aesthetical meaning of a text. Narrative works of art contain a representation of their own ideal reception process. They are something of a tool with which the creators of the work wish to attain certain aesthetical and even moral effects.

Mind Wandering

There is an intimate, dynamic interplay between mind wandering and metacognition. Metacognition serves to correct the wandering mind, suppressing spontaneous thoughts and bringing attention back to more “worthwhile” tasks.

Organisational Metacognition

The concept of metacognition has also been applied to collective teams and organisations in general, termed organisational metacognition.

  • Educational psychology: Branch of psychology concerned with the scientific study of human learning.
  • Educational technology: Use of technology in education to improve learning and teaching.
  • Epistemology: Branch of philosophy concerning knowledge.
  • Goal orientation.
  • Introspection: Examining one’s own thoughts and feelings.
  • Learning styles: Largely debunked theories that aim to account for differences in individuals’ learning.
  • Meta-emotion.
  • Metaknowledge.
  • Metaphilosophy: Philosophy of philosophy.
  • Münchhausen trilemma: A thought experiment used to demonstrate the impossibility of proving any truth.
  • Metatheory: Theory whose subject matter is itself a theory.
  • Mentalisation.
  • Mindstream: Buddhist concept of continuity of mind.
  • Mirror test: Animal self-awareness test to determine self-recognition in a mirror.
  • Phenomenology (philosophy): Philosophical method and schools of philosophy.
  • Phenomenology (psychology): Psychological study of subjective experience.
  • Psychological effects of Internet use.
  • Second-order cybernetics: Recursive application of cybernetics to itself and the reflexive practice of cybernetics according to this critique.

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What is Olmstead v .L.C. (1999)?

Introduction

Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999), is a United States Supreme Court case regarding discrimination against people with mental disabilities.

The Supreme Court held that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals with mental disabilities have the right to live in the community rather than in institutions if, in the words of the opinion of the Court, “the State’s treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate, the transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the affected individual, and the placement can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the State and the needs of others with mental disabilities.”

The case was brought by the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc.

Background

Tommy Olmstead, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Human Resources, et al. v. L. C., by Zimring, guardian ad litem and next friend, et al. (Olmstead v. L.C.) was a case filed in 1995 and decided in 1999 before the United States Supreme Court. The plaintiffs, L.C. (Lois Curtis) and E.W. (Elaine Wilson, deceased 04 December 2005), two women were diagnosed with schizophrenia, intellectual disability and personality disorder. They had both been treated in institutional settings and in community based treatments in the state of Georgia.

  • Guardian ad litem: A legal guardian is a person who has been appointed by a court or otherwise has the legal authority to care for the personal and property interests of another person, called a ward.
  • Next Friend: In common law, a next friend is a person who represents another person who is underage, or, because of disability or otherwise, is unable to maintain a suit on his or her own behalf and who does not have a legal guardian. Also known as litigation friends.

Following clinical assessments by state employees, both plaintiffs were determined to be better suited for treatment in a community-based setting rather than in the institution. The plaintiffs remained confined in the institution, each for several years after the initial treatment was concluded. Both sued the state of Georgia to prevent them from being inappropriately treated and housed in the institutional setting.

Opinion of the Court

The case rose to the level of the United States Supreme Court, which decided the case in 1999, and plays a major role in determining that mental illness is a form of disability and therefore covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title II of the ADA applies to ‘public entities’ and include ‘state and local governments’ and ‘any department, agency or special purpose district’ and protects any ‘qualified person with a disability’ from exclusion from participation in or denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity.

The Supreme Court decided mental illness is a form of disability and that “unjustified isolation” of a person with a disability is a form of discrimination under Title II of the ADA. The Supreme Court held that community placement is only required and appropriate (i.e. institutionalisation is unjustified), when:

  • The State’s treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate;
  • The transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the affected individual; and
  • The placement can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the State and the needs of others with mental disabilities.

Unjustified isolation is discrimination based on disability. Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581, 587 (1999).

The Supreme Court explained that this holding “reflects two evident judgments.”

  • First, “institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life.”
  • Second, historically “confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment.” Id. at 600-601.

However, a majority of Justices in Olmstead also recognized an ongoing role for publicly and privately operated institutions:

“We emphasize that nothing in the ADA or its implementing regulations condones termination of institutional settings for persons unable to handle or benefit from community settings…Nor is there any federal requirement that community-based treatment be imposed on patients who do not desire it.” Id. at 601-602.

A plurality of Justices noted: “[N]o placement outside the institution may ever be appropriate . . . ‘Some individuals, whether mentally retarded or mentally ill, are not prepared at particular times – perhaps in the short run, perhaps in the long run – for the risks and exposure of the less protective environment of community settings ’ for these persons, ‘institutional settings are needed and must remain available’” (quoting Amicus Curiae Brief for the American Psychiatric Association, et al). “As already observed [by the majority], the ADA is not reasonably read to impel States to phase out institutions, placing patients in need of close care at risk… ‘Each disabled person is entitled to treatment in the most integrated setting possible for that person—recognizing on a case-by-case basis, that setting may be an institution’[quoting VOR’s Amici Curiae brief].” Id. at 605.

Justice Kennedy noted in his concurring opinion, “It would be unreasonable, it would be a tragic event, then, were the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) to be interpreted so that states had some incentive, for fear of litigation to drive those in need of medical care and treatment out of appropriate care and into settings with too little assistance and supervision.” Id. at 610.

The Supreme Court did not reach the question of whether there is a constitutional right to community services in the most integrated setting.

About ten years after the Olmstead decision, the State of Georgia and the United States Department of Justice entered a settlement agreement to cease all admissions of individuals with developmental disabilities to state-operated, federally licensed institutions (“State Hospitals”) and, by 01 July 2015, “transition all individuals with developmental disabilities in the State Hospitals from the Hospitals to community settings,” according to a Department of Justice Fact Sheet about the settlement. The settlement also calls for serving 9,000 individuals with mental illness in community settings. Recently, the federal court’s Independent Reviewer for the settlement found significant health and safety risks, including many deaths, plaguing former State Hospital residents due to their transition from a licensed facility home to community-settings per the settlement. The Court has approved a moratorium on such transfers until the safety of those impacted can be assured.

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What is Clanging?

Introduction

In psychology and psychiatry, clanging refers to a mode of speech characterised by association of words based upon sound rather than concepts.

For example, this may include compulsive rhyming or alliteration without apparent logical connection between words.

Background

This is associated with the irregular thinking apparent in psychotic mental illnesses (e.g. mania and schizophrenia). Gustav Aschaffenburg found that manic individuals generated these “clang-associations” roughly 10-50 times more than non-manic individuals. Aschaffenburg also found that the frequency of these associations increased for all individuals as they became more fatigued.

Clanging refers specifically to behaviour that is situationally inappropriate. While a poet rhyming is not evidence of mental illness, disorganised speech that impedes the patient’s ability to communicate is a disorder in itself, often seen in schizophrenia.

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What is Anosognosia?

Introduction

Anosognosia is a condition in which a person with a disability is cognitively unaware of having it due to an underlying physical or psychological (e.g. PTSD, Stockholm syndrome, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dementia) condition.

Anosognosia can result from physiological damage to brain structures, typically to the parietal lobe or a diffuse lesion on the fronto-temporal-parietal area in the right hemisphere, and is thus a neuropsychiatric disorder. A deficit of self-awareness, it was first named by the neurologist Joseph Babinski in 1914. Phenomenologically, anosognosia has similarities to denial, which is a psychological defence mechanism; attempts have been made at a unified explanation. Anosognosia is sometimes accompanied by asomatognosia, a form of neglect in which patients deny ownership of body parts such as their limbs. The term is from Ancient Greek ἀ- a-, ‘without’, νόσος nosos, ‘disease’ and γνῶσις gnōsis, ‘knowledge’. It is also considered a disorder that makes the treatment of the patient more difficult, since it may affect negatively the therapeutic relationship.

Causes

Relatively little has been discovered about the cause of the condition since its initial identification. Recent empirical studies tend to consider anosognosia a multi-componential syndrome or multi-faceted phenomenon. That is it can be manifested by failure to be aware of a number of specific deficits, including motor (hemiplegia), sensory (hemianaesthesia, hemianopia), spatial (unilateral neglect), memory (dementia), and language (receptive aphasia) due to impairment of anatomo-functionally discrete monitoring systems.

Anosognosia is relatively common following different causes of brain injury, such as stroke and traumatic brain injury; for example, anosognosia for hemiparesis (weakness of one side of the body) with onset of acute stroke is estimated at between 10% and 18%. However, it can appear to occur in conjunction with virtually any neurological impairment. It is more frequent in the acute than in the chronic phase and more prominent for assessment in the cases with right hemispheric lesions than with the left. Anosognosia is not related to global mental confusion, cognitive flexibility, other major intellectual disturbances, or mere sensory/perceptual deficits.

The condition does not seem to be directly related to sensory loss but is thought to be caused by damage to higher level neurocognitive processes that are involved in integrating sensory information with processes that support spatial or bodily representations (including the somatosensory system). Anosognosia is thought to be related to unilateral neglect, a condition often found after damage to the non-dominant (usually the right) hemisphere of the cerebral cortex in which people seem unable to attend to, or sometimes comprehend, anything on a certain side of their body (usually the left).

Anosognosia can be selective in that an affected person with multiple impairments may seem unaware of only one handicap, while appearing to be fully aware of any others. This is consistent with the idea that the source of the problem relates to spatial representation of the body. For example, anosognosia for hemiplegia may occur with or without intact awareness of visuo-spatial unilateral neglect. This phenomenon of double dissociation can be an indicator of domain-specific disorders of awareness modules, meaning that in anosognosia, brain damage can selectively impact the self-monitoring process of one specific physical or cognitive function rather than a spatial location of the body.

There are also studies showing that the manoeuvre of vestibular stimulation could temporarily improve both the syndrome of spatial unilateral neglect and of anosognosia for left hemiplegia. Combining the findings of hemispheric asymmetry to the right, association with spatial unilateral neglect, and the temporal improvement on both syndromes, it is suggested there can be a spatial component underlying the mechanism of anosognosia for motor weakness and that neural processes could be modulated similarly. There were some cases of anosognosia for right hemiplegia after left hemisphere damage, but the frequency of this type of anosognosia has not been estimated.

Anosognosia may occur as part of receptive aphasia, a language disorder that causes poor comprehension of speech and the production of fluent but incomprehensible sentences. A patient with receptive aphasia cannot correct his own phonetics errors and shows “anger and disappointment with the person with whom s/he is speaking because that person fails to understand her/him”. This may be a result of brain damage to the posterior portion of the superior temporal gyrus, believed to contain representations of word sounds. With those representations significantly distorted, patients with receptive aphasia are unable to monitor their mistakes. Other patients with receptive aphasia are fully aware of their condition and speech inhibitions, but cannot monitor their condition, which is not the same as anosognosia and therefore cannot explain the occurrence of neologistic jargon.

Psychiatry

Although largely used to describe unawareness of impairment after brain injury or stroke, the term “anosognosia” is occasionally used to describe the lack of insight shown by some people with anorexia nervosa. They do not seem to recognise that they have a mental illness. There is evidence that anosognosia related to schizophrenia may be the result of frontal lobe damage. E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist and schizophrenia researcher, has stated that among those with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, anosognosia is the most prevalent reason for not taking medications.

Diagnosis

Clinically, anosognosia is often assessed by giving patients an anosognosia questionnaire in order to assess their metacognitive knowledge of deficits. However, neither of the existing questionnaires applied in the clinics are designed thoroughly for evaluating the multidimensional nature of this clinical phenomenon; nor are the responses obtained via offline questionnaire capable of revealing the discrepancy of awareness observed from their online task performance. The discrepancy is noticed when patients showed no awareness of their deficits from the offline responses to the questionnaire but demonstrated reluctance or verbal circumlocution when asked to perform an online task. For example, patients with anosognosia for hemiplegia may find excuses not to perform a bimanual task even though they do not admit it is because of their paralysed arms.

A similar situation can happen to patients with anosognosia for cognitive deficits after traumatic brain injury when monitoring their errors during the tasks regarding their memory and attention (online emergent awareness) and when predicting their performance right before the same tasks (online anticipatory awareness). It can also occur among patients with dementia and anosognosia for memory deficit when prompted with dementia-related words, showing possible pre-attentive processing and implicit knowledge of their memory problems. Patients with anosognosia may also overestimate their performance when asked in first-person formed questions but not from a third-person perspective when the questions referring to others.

When assessing the causes of anosognosia within stroke patients, CT scans have been used to assess where the greatest amount of damage is found within the various areas of the brain. Stroke patients with mild and severe levels of anosognosia (determined by response to an anosognosia questionnaire) have been linked to lesions within the temporoparietal and thalamic regions, when compared to those who experience moderate anosognosia, or none at all. In contrast, after a stroke, people with moderate anosognosia have a higher frequency of lesions involving the basal ganglia, compared to those with mild or severe anosognosia.

Treatment

In regard to anosognosia for neurological patients, no long-term treatments exist. As with unilateral neglect, caloric reflex testing (squirting ice cold water into the left ear) is known to temporarily ameliorate unawareness of impairment. It is not entirely clear how this works, although it is thought that the unconscious shift of attention or focus caused by the intense stimulation of the vestibular system temporarily influences awareness. Most cases of anosognosia appear to simply disappear over time, while other cases can last indefinitely. Normally, long-term cases are treated with cognitive therapy to train patients to adjust for their inoperable limbs (though it is believed that these patients still are not “aware” of their disability). Another commonly used method is the use of feedback – comparing clients’ self-predicted performance with their actual performance on a task in an attempt to improve insight.

Neurorehabilitation is difficult because, as anosognosia impairs the patient’s desire to seek medical aid, it may also impair their ability to seek rehabilitation. A lack of awareness of the deficit makes cooperative, mindful work with a therapist difficult. In the acute phase, very little can be done to improve their awareness, but during this time, it is important for the therapist to build a therapeutic alliance with patients by entering their phenomenological field and reducing their frustration and confusion. Since severity changes over time, no single method of treatment or rehabilitation has emerged or will likely emerge.

In regard to psychiatric patients, empirical studies verify that, for individuals with severe mental illnesses, lack of awareness of illness is significantly associated with both medication non-compliance and re-hospitalisation. Fifteen percent of individuals with severe mental illnesses who refuse to take medication voluntarily under any circumstances may require some form of coercion to remain compliant because of anosognosia. Coercive psychiatric treatment is a delicate and complex legal and ethical issue.

One study of voluntary and involuntary inpatients confirmed that committed patients require coercive treatment because they fail to recognise their need for care. The patients committed to the hospital had significantly lower measures of insight than the voluntary patients.

Anosognosia is also closely related to other cognitive dysfunctions that may impair the capacity of an individual to continuously participate in treatment. Other research has suggested that attitudes toward treatment can improve after involuntary treatment and that previously committed patients tend later to seek voluntary treatment.

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What is the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale?

Introduction

The Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) is a medical scale used for measuring symptom severity of patients with schizophrenia.

It was published in 1987 by Stanley Kay, Lewis Opler, and Abraham Fiszbein. It is widely used in the study of antipsychotic therapy. The scale is known as the “gold standard” that all assessments of psychotic behavioural disorders should follow.

The name refers to the two types of symptoms in schizophrenia, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association:

  • Positive symptoms, which refer to an excess or distortion of normal functions (e.g. hallucinations and delusions); and
  • Negative symptoms, which represent a diminution or loss of normal functions.

Some of these functions which may be lost include normal thoughts, actions, ability to tell fantasies from reality, and the ability to properly express emotions.

The PANSS is a relatively brief interview, requiring 45 to 50 minutes to administer. The interviewer must be trained to a standardised level of reliability.

Interview Items

To assess a patient using PANSS, an approximately 45-minute clinical interview is conducted. The patient is rated from 1 to 7 on 30 different symptoms based on the interview as well as reports of family members or primary care hospital workers.

  • Positive scale:
    • 7 Items, (minimum score = 7, maximum score = 49):
      • Delusions.
      • Conceptual disorganisation.
      • Hallucinations.
      • Excitement.
      • Grandiosity.
      • Suspiciousness/persecution.
      • Hostility.
  • Negative scale:
    • 7 Items, (minimum score = 7, maximum score = 49):
      • Blunted affect.
      • Emotional withdrawal.
      • Poor rapport.
      • Passive/apathetic social withdrawal.
      • Difficulty in abstract thinking.
      • Lack of spontaneity and flow of conversation.
      • Stereotyped thinking.
  • General Psychopathology scale:
    • 16 Items, (minimum score = 16, maximum score = 112):
      • Somatic concern.
      • Anxiety.
      • Guilt feelings.
      • Tension.
      • Mannerisms and posturing.
      • Depression.
      • Motor retardation.
      • Uncooperativeness.
      • Unusual thought content.
      • Disorientation.
      • Poor attention.
      • Lack of judgement and insight.
      • Disturbance of volition.
      • Poor impulse control.
      • Preoccupation.
      • Active social avoidance.

PANSS Total score minimum = 30, maximum = 210

Scoring

As 1 rather than 0 is given as the lowest score for each item, a patient can not score lower than 30 for the total PANSS score. Scores are often given separately for the positive items, negative items, and general psychopathology. In their original publication on the PANSS scale, Stanley Kay and colleagues tested the scale on 101 adult patients (20-68 years-old) with schizophrenia and the mean scores were,

  • Positive scale = 18.20.
  • Negative scale = 21.01.
  • General psychopathology = 37.74.

Based on meta-analytic results, an alternative five-factor solution of the PANSS was proposed with positive symptoms, negative symptoms, disorganisation, excitement, and emotional distress.

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What is Amisulpride?

Introduction

Amisulpride is an antiemetic and antipsychotic medication used at lower doses intravenously to prevent and treat postoperative nausea and vomiting; and at higher doses by mouth to treat schizophrenia and acute psychotic episodes.

It is sold under the brand names Barhemsys (as an antiemetic) and Solian, Socian, Deniban and others (as an antipsychotic). It is also used to treat dysthymia.

It is usually classed with the atypical antipsychotics. Chemically it is a benzamide and like other benzamide antipsychotics, such as sulpiride, it is associated with a high risk of elevating blood levels of the lactation hormone, prolactin (thereby potentially causing the absence of the menstrual cycle, breast enlargement, even in males, breast milk secretion not related to breastfeeding, impaired fertility, impotence, breast pain, etc.), and a low risk, relative to the typical antipsychotics, of causing movement disorders.

Amisulpride is indicated for use in the US in adults for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV), either alone or in combination with an antiemetic of a different class; and to treat PONV in those who have received antiemetic prophylaxis with an agent of a different class or have not received prophylaxis.

Amisulpride is believed to work by blocking, or antagonising, the dopamine D2 receptor, reducing its signalling. The effectiveness of amisulpride in treating dysthymia and the negative symptoms of schizophrenia is believed to stem from its blockade of the presynaptic dopamine D2 receptors. These presynaptic receptors regulate the release of dopamine into the synapse, so by blocking them amisulpride increases dopamine concentrations in the synapse. This increased dopamine concentration is theorised to act on dopamine D1 receptors to relieve depressive symptoms (in dysthymia) and the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

It was introduced by Sanofi-Aventis in the 1990s. Its patent expired by 2008, and generic formulations became available. It is marketed in all English-speaking countries except for Canada. A New York City based company, LB Pharmaceuticals, has announced the ongoing development of LB-102, also known as N-methyl amisulpride, an antipsychotic specifically targeting the United States. A poster presentation at European Neuropsychopharmacology seems to suggest that this version of amisulpride, known as LB-102 displays the same binding to D2, D3 and 5HT7 that amisulpride does.

Brief History

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved amisulpride based on evidence from four clinical trials of 2323 subjects undergoing surgery or experiencing nausea and vomiting after the surgery. The trials were conducted at 80 sites in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Two trials (Trials 1 and 2) enrolled subjects scheduled to have surgery. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either amisulpride or a placebo drug at the beginning of general anaesthesia. In Trial 1, subjects received amisulpride or placebo alone, and in Trial 2, they received amisulpride or placebo in combination with one medication approved for prevention of nausea and vomiting. Neither the subjects nor the health care providers knew which treatment was being given until after the trial was complete.

The trials counted the number of subjects who had no vomiting and did not use additional medications for nausea or vomiting in the first day (24 hours) after the surgery. The results then compared amisulpride to placebo.

The other two trials (Trials 3 and 4) enrolled subjects who were experiencing nausea and vomiting after surgery. In Trial 3, subjects did not receive any medication to prevent nausea and vomiting before surgery and in Trial 4 they received the medication, but the treatment did not work. In both trials, subjects were randomly assigned to receive either amisulpride or placebo. Neither the subjects nor the health care providers knew which treatment was being given until after the trial was complete.

The trials counted the number of subjects who had no vomiting and did not use additional medications for nausea or vomiting in the first day (24 hours) after the treatment. The trial compared amisulpride to placebo.

Medical Uses

Schizophrenia

Although according to other studies it appears to have comparable efficacy to olanzapine in the treatment of schizophrenia. Amisulpride augmentation, similarly to sulpiride augmentation, has been considered a viable treatment option (although this is based on low-quality evidence) in clozapine-resistant cases of schizophrenia. Another recent study concluded that amisulpride is an appropriate first-line treatment for the management of acute psychosis.

Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting

Amisulpride is indicated for use in the United States in adults for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV), either alone or in combination with an antiemetic of a different class; and to treat PONV in those who have received antiemetic prophylaxis with an agent of a different class or have not received prophylaxis.

Contraindications

Amisulpride’s use is contraindicated in the following disease states:

  • Pheochromocytoma.
  • Concomitant prolactin-dependent tumours e.g. prolactinoma, breast cancer.
  • Movement disorders (e.g. Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies).
  • Lactation.
  • Children before the onset of puberty.

Neither is it recommended to use amisulpride in patients with hypersensitivities to amisulpride or the excipients found in its dosage form.

Adverse Effects

  • Very Common (≥10% incidence):
    • Extrapyramidal side effects (EPS; including dystonia, tremor, akathisia, parkinsonism).
  • Common (≥1%, <10% incidence):
    • Insomnia.
    • Hypersalivation.
    • Nausea.
    • Headache.
    • Hyperactivity.
    • Vomiting.
    • Hyperprolactinaemia (which can lead to galactorrhoea, breast enlargement and tenderness, sexual dysfunction, etc.).
    • Weight gain (produces less weight gain than chlorpromazine, clozapine, iloperidone, olanzapine, paliperidone, quetiapine, risperidone, sertindole, zotepine and more (although not statistically significantly) weight gain than haloperidol, lurasidone, ziprasidone and approximately as much weight gain as aripiprazole and asenapine).
    • Anticholinergic side effects (although it does not bind to the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors and hence these side effects are usually quite mild) such as
      • Constipation.
      • Dry mouth.
      • Disorder of accommodation.
      • Blurred vision.
  • Rare (<1% incidence):
    • Hyponatraemia.
    • Bradycardia.
    • Hypotension.
    • Palpitations.
    • Urticaria.
    • Seizures.
    • Mania.
    • Oculogyric crisis.
    • Tardive dyskinesia.
    • Blood dyscrasias such as leucopenia, neutropenia and agranulocytosis.
    • QT interval prolongation (in a recent meta-analysis of the safety and efficacy of 15 antipsychotic drugs amisulpride was found to have the 2nd highest effect size for causing QT interval prolongation).
    • Somnolence.

Hyperprolactinaemia results from antagonism of the D2 receptors located on the lactotrophic cells found in the anterior pituitary gland. Amisulpride has a high propensity for elevating plasma prolactin levels as a result of its poor blood-brain barrier penetrability and hence the resulting greater ratio of peripheral D2 occupancy to central D2 occupancy. This means that to achieve the sufficient occupancy (~60–80%) of the central D2 receptors in order to elicit its therapeutic effects a dose must be given that is enough to saturate peripheral D2 receptors including those in the anterior pituitary.

Discontinuation

The British National Formulary recommends a gradual withdrawal when discontinuing antipsychotics to avoid acute withdrawal syndrome or rapid relapse. Symptoms of withdrawal commonly include nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Other symptoms may include restlessness, increased sweating, and trouble sleeping. Less commonly there may be a feeling of the world spinning, numbness, or muscle pains. Symptoms generally resolve after a short period of time.

There is tentative evidence that discontinuation of antipsychotics can result in psychosis. It may also result in reoccurrence of the condition that is being treated. Rarely tardive dyskinesia can occur when the medication is stopped.

Overdose

Torsades de pointes is common in overdose. Amisulpride is moderately dangerous in overdose (with the TCAs being very dangerous and the SSRIs being modestly dangerous).

Interactions

Amisulpride should not be used in conjunction with drugs that prolong the QT interval (such as citalopram, bupropion, clozapine, tricyclic antidepressants, sertindole, ziprasidone, etc.), reduce heart rate and those that can induce hypokalaemia. Likewise it is imprudent to combine antipsychotics due to the additive risk for tardive dyskinesia and neuroleptic malignant syndrome.

Pharmacology

Pharmacodynamics

Amisulpride functions primarily as a dopamine D2 and D3 receptor antagonist. It has high affinity for these receptors with dissociation constants of 3.0 and 3.5 nM, respectively. Although standard doses used to treat psychosis inhibit dopaminergic neurotransmission, low doses preferentially block inhibitory presynaptic autoreceptors. This results in a facilitation of dopamine activity, and for this reason, low-dose amisulpride has also been used to treat dysthymia.

Amisulpride and its relatives sulpiride, levosulpiride, and sultopride have been shown to bind to the high-affinity GHB receptor at concentrations that are therapeutically relevant (IC50 = 50 nM for amisulpride).

Amisulpride, sultopride and sulpiride respectively present decreasing in vitro affinities for the D2 receptor (IC50 = 27, 120 and 181 nM) and the D3 receptor (IC50 = 3.6, 4.8 and 17.5 nM).

Though it was long widely assumed that dopaminergic modulation is solely responsible for the respective antidepressant and antipsychotic properties of amisulpride, it was subsequently found that the drug also acts as a potent antagonist of the serotonin 5-HT7 receptor (Ki = 11.5 nM). Several of the other atypical antipsychotics such as risperidone and ziprasidone are potent antagonists at the 5-HT7 receptor as well, and selective antagonists of the receptor show antidepressant properties themselves. To characterise the role of the 5-HT7 receptor in the antidepressant effects of amisulpride, a study prepared 5-HT7 receptor knockout mice. The study found that in two widely used rodent models of depression, the tail suspension test, and the forced swim test, those mice did not exhibit an antidepressant response upon treatment with amisulpride. These results suggest that 5-HT7 receptor antagonism mediates the antidepressant effects of amisulpride.

Amisulpride also appears to bind with high affinity to the serotonin 5-HT2B receptor (Ki = 13 nM), where it acts as an antagonist. The clinical implications of this, if any, are unclear. In any case, there is no evidence that this action mediates any of the therapeutic effects of amisulpride.

Amisulpride shows stereoselectivity in its actions. Aramisulpride ((R)-amisulpride) has higher affinity for the 5-HT7 receptor (Ki = 47 nM vs. 1,900 nM) while esamisulpride ((S)-amisulpride) has higher affinity for the D2 receptor (4.0 nM vs. 140 nM). An 85:15 ratio of aramisulpride to esamisulpride (SEP-4199) which provides more balanced 5-HT7 and D2 receptor antagonism than racemic amisulpride (50:50 ratio of enantiomers) is under development for the treatment of bipolar depression.

Society and Culture

Brand Names

Brand names include: Amazeo, Amipride (AU), Amival, Solian (AU, IE, RU, UK, ZA), Soltus, Sulpitac (IN), Sulprix (AU), Midora (RO) and Socian (BR).

Availability

Amisulpride was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States until February 2020, but it is used in Europe, Israel, Mexico, India, New Zealand and Australia to treat psychosis and schizophrenia.

An IV formulation of Amisulpride was approved for the treatment of postoperative nausea and vomiting (“PONV”) in the United States in February 2020.

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What is Logorrhoea?

Introduction

In psychology, logorrhea or logorrhoea (from Ancient Greek λόγος logos “word” and ῥέω rheo “to flow”), is a communication disorder that causes excessive wordiness and repetitiveness, which can cause incoherency.

Logorrhoea is sometimes classified as a mental illness, though it is more commonly classified as a symptom of mental illness or brain injury. This ailment is often reported as a symptom of Wernicke’s aphasia, where damage to the language processing centre of the brain creates difficulty in self-centred speech.

Refer to Tangential Speech.

Characteristics

Logorrhoea is characterised by the constant need to talk. Occasionally, patients suffering from logorrhoea may produce speech with normal prosody and a slightly fast speech rate. Other related symptoms include the use of neologisms (new words without clear derivation, e.g. hipidomateous for hippopotamus), words that bear no apparent meaning, and, in some extreme cases, the creation of new words and morphosyntactic constructions. From the “stream of unchecked nonsense often under pressure and the lack of self-correction” that the patient may exhibit, and their circumlocution (the ability to talk around missing words) we may conclude that they are unaware of the grammatical errors they are making.

Examples of Logorrhoea

When a clinician said, “Tell me what you do with a comb”, to a patient suffering from mild Wernicke’s aphasia (which produces the symptom of logorrhoea), the patient responded:

“What do I do with a comb … what I do with a comb. Well a comb is a utensil or some such thing that can be used for arranging and rearranging the hair on the head both by men and by women. One could also make music with it by putting a piece of paper behind and blowing through it. Sometimes it could be used in art – in sculpture, for example, to make a series of lines in soft clay. It’s usually made of plastic and usually black, although it comes in other colors. It is carried in the pocket or until it’s needed, when it is taken out and used, then put back in the pocket. Is that what you had in mind?”

In this case, the patient maintained proper grammar and did not exhibit any signs of neologisms. However, the patient did use an overabundance of speech in responding to the clinician, as most people would simply respond, “I use a comb to comb my hair.”

In a more extreme version of logorrhoea aphasia, a clinician asked a male patient, also with Wernicke’s aphasia, what brought him to the hospital. The patient responded:

“Is this some of the work that we work as we did before? … All right … From when wine [why] I’m here. What’s wrong with me because I … was myself until the taenz took something about the time between me and my regular time in that time and they took the time in that time here and that’s when the time took around here and saw me around in it’s started with me no time and I bekan [began] work of nothing else that’s the way the doctor find me that way…”

In this example, the patient’s aphasia was much more severe. Not only was this a case of logorrhoea, but this included neologisms (such as “taenz” for “stroke” and “regular time” for “regular bath”) and a loss of proper sentence structure.

Causes

Logorrhoea has been shown to be associated with traumatic brain injuries in the frontal lobe[7] as well as with lesions in the thalamus] and the ascending reticular inhibitory system and has been associated with aphasia. Logorrhoea can also result from a variety of psychiatric and neurological disorders including tachypsychia, mania, hyperactivity, catatonia, ADHD and schizophrenia.

Aphasias

Wernicke’s Aphasia, amongst other aphasias, are often associated with logorrhoea. Aphasia refers to the neurological disruption of language that occurs as a consequence of brain dysfunction. For a patient to truly have an aphasia, they cannot have been diagnosed with any other medical condition that may affect their cognition. Logorrhoea is a common symptom of Wernicke’s Aphasia, along with circumlocution, paraphasias, and neologisms. Often a patient with aphasia may present all of these symptoms at one time.

Treatment

Excessive talking may be a symptom of an underlying illness and should be addressed by a medical provider if combined with hyperactivity or symptoms of mental illness, such as hallucinations. Treatment of logorrhoea depends on its underlying disorder, if any. Antipsychotics are often used, and lithium is a common supplement given to manic patients. For patients with lesions of the brain, attempting to correct their errors may upset and anger the patients, since the language centre of their brain may not be able to process that what they are saying is incorrect and wordy.

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What is Tangential Speech?

Introduction

Tangential speech or tangentiality is a communication disorder in which the train of thought of the speaker wanders and shows a lack of focus, never returning to the initial topic of the conversation.

It tends to occur in situations where a person is experiencing high anxiety, as a manifestation of the psychosis known as schizophrenia, in dementia or in states of delirium. It is less severe than logorrhoea and may be associated with the middle stage in dementia. It is, however, more severe than circumstantial speech in which the speaker wanders, but eventually returns to the topic.

Some adults with right hemisphere brain damage may exhibit behaviour that includes tangential speech. Those who exhibit these behaviours may also have related symptoms such as seemingly inappropriate or self-centred social responses, and a deterioration in pragmatic abilities (including appropriate eye contact as well as topic maintenance).

Brief History

The earlier phenomenological description allowed for further definition on the basis of formal characteristic rather than content, producing later practice relying upon clinical assessment. The term has undergone a re-definition to refer only to a persons speech in response to a question, and to provide the definition separation from the similar symptoms loosening of association and derailment.

Definition

The term refers simplistically to a thought disorder shown from speech with a lack of observance to the main subject of discourse, such that a person whilst speaking on a topic deviates from the topic. Further definition is of speech that deviates from an answer to a question that is relevant in the first instance but deviates from the relevancy to related subjects not involved in a direct answering of the question. In the context of a conversation or discussion the communication is a response that is ineffective in that the form is inappropriate for adequate understanding. The person’s speech seems to indicate that their attention to their own speech has perhaps in some way been overcome during the occurrence of cognition whilst speaking, causing the vocalised content to follow thought that is apparently without reference to the original idea or question; or the person’s speech is considered evasive in that the person has decided to provide an answer to a question that is an avoidance of a direct answer.

Other

According to the St. Louis system for the diagnosis of schizophrenia, tangentiality is significantly associated with a low IQ prior to diagnosis.

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What is the Hearing Voices Movement?

Introduction

The Hearing Voices Movement (HVM) is the name used by organisations and individuals advocating the “hearing voices approach”, an alternative way of understanding the experience of those people who “hear voices”.

In the medical professional literature, ‘voices’ are most often referred to as auditory verbal hallucinations. The movement uses the term ‘hearing voices’, which it feels is a more accurate and ‘user-friendly’ term.

The movement was instigated by Marius Romme, Sandra Escher and Patsy Hage in 1987. It challenges the notion that to hear voices is necessarily a characteristic of mental illness. Instead it regards hearing voices as a meaningful and understandable, although unusual, human variation. It therefore rejects the stigma and pathologisation of hearing voices and advocates human rights, social justice and support for people who hear voices that is empowering and recovery focused. The movement thus challenges the medical model of mental illness, specifically the validity of the schizophrenia construct.

Refer to Hearing Voices Network.

Brief History

The international Hearing Voices Movement is a prominent mental health service-user/survivor movement that promotes the needs and perspectives of experts by experience in the phenomenon of hearing voices (auditory verbal hallucinations). The main tenet of the Hearing Voices Movement is the notion that hearing voices is a meaningful human experience.

The Hearing Voices Movement regards itself and is regarded by others as being a post-psychiatric organisation. It positions itself outside of the mental health world in recognition that voices are an aspect of human difference, rather than a mental health problem. One of the main issues of concern for the Hearing Voices Movement is empowerment and human rights as outlined in its Melbourne Hearing Voices Declaration 2013 and Thessaloniki Declaration 2014.

The Hearing Voices Movement also seeks holistic health solutions to problematic and overwhelming voices that cause mental distress. Based on their research, the movement espouses that many people successfully live with their voices. In themselves voices are not seen as the problem. Rather it is the relationship the person has with their voices that is regarded as the main issue. Research indicates that mindfulness-based interventions can be beneficial for people distressed by hearing voices.

The Hearing Voices Movement has developed interventions for mental health practitioners to support people who hear voices and are overwhelmed by the experience.

Position

The position of the hearing voices movement can be summarised as follows:

  • Hearing voices is not in itself a sign of mental illness.
  • Hearing voices is part of the diversity of being a human, it is a faculty that is common (3-10% of the population will hear a voice or voices in their lifetime) and significant.
  • Hearing voices is experienced by many people who do not have symptoms that would lead to diagnosis of mental illness.
  • Hearing voices is often related to problems in life history.
  • If hearing voices causes distress, the person who hears the voices can learn strategies to cope with the experience.
  • Coping is often achieved by confronting the past problems that lie behind the experience.

Theoretical Overview

The work of Marius Romme, Sandra Escher and other researchers provides a theoretical framework for the movement. They find that:

  • Not everyone who hears voices becomes a patient. Over a third of 400 voice hearers in the Netherlands they studied had not had any contact with psychiatric services. These people either described themselves as being able to cope with their voices and/or described their voices as life enhancing.
  • Demographic (epidemiological) research carried out over the last 120 years provides evidence that there are people who hear voices in the general population (2%-6%) who are not necessarily troubled by them). Only a small minority fulfil the criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis and, of those, only a few seek psychiatric aid indicating that hearing voices in itself is not necessarily a symptom of an illness. Even more (about 8%) have peculiar delusions and do so without being ill.
  • People who cope well with their voices and those who did not, show clear differences in terms of the nature of the relationship they had with their voices.
  • People who live well with their voice experience use different strategies to manage their voices than those voice hearers who are overwhelmed by them.
  • 70% of voice hearers reported that their voices had begun after a severe traumatic or intensely emotional event such as an accident, divorce or bereavement, sexual or physical abuse, love affairs, or pregnancy. Romme and colleagues found that the onset of voice hearing amongst a patient group was preceded by either a traumatic event or an event that activated the memory of an earlier trauma.
  • Specifically, there is a high correlation between voice hearing and abuse. These findings are being substantiated further in on-going studies with voice hearing amongst children.
  • Some people who hear voices have a deep need to construct a personal understanding for their experiences and to talk to others about it without being designated as mad.

Romme, colleagues and other researchers find that people who hear voices can be helped using methods such as voice dialoguing cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and self-help methods.

Romme theorises a three phase model of recovery:

StartlingInitial confusion; emotional chaos, fear, helplessness and psychological turmoil.
OrganisationThe need to find meaning, arrive at some understanding and acceptance. The development of ways of coping and accommodating voices in everyday living. This task may take months or years and is marked by the attempt to enter into active negotiation with the voice(s).
StabilisationThe establishment of equilibrium, and accommodation, with the voice(s), and the consequent re-empowerment of the person.

Alternative to Medical Model of Disability

The Hearing Voices Movement disavows the medical model of disability and disapproves of the practises of mental health services through much of the Western world, such as treatment solely with medication. For example, some service users have reported negative experiences of mental health services because they are discouraged from talking about their voices as these are seen solely as symptoms of psychiatric illness. Slade and Bentall conclude that the failure to attend to hallucinatory experiences and/or have the opportunity for dialogue about them is likely to have the effect of helping to maintain them.

In Voices of Reason, Voices of Insanity, Leudar and Thomas review nearly 3,000 years of voice-hearing history. They argue that the Western World has moved the experience of hearing voices from a socially valued context to a pathologised and denigrated one. Foucault has argued that this process can generally arise when a minority perspective is at odds with dominant social norms and beliefs.

Organisation

The Hearing Voices Movement was established in 1987 by Romme and Escher, both from the Netherlands, with the formation of Stichting Weerklank (Foundation Resonance), a peer led support organisation for people who hear voices. In 1988, the Hearing Voices Network was established in England with the active support of Romme. Since then, networks have been established in 35 countries.

INTERVOICE (The International Network for Training, Education and Research into Hearing Voices) is the organisation that provides coordination and support to the Hearing Voices Movement. It is supported by people who hear voices, relatives, friends and mental health professionals including therapists, social workers, nurses, psychiatrists and psychologists.

INTERVOICE was formed in 1997, at a meeting of voice hearers, family members and mental health workers was held in Maastricht, Netherlands to consider how to organise internationally further research and work about the subject of voice hearing. The meeting decided to create a formal organisational structure to provide administrative and coordinating support to the wide variety of initiatives in the different involved countries.

The organisation is structured as a network and was incorporated in 2007 as a non-profit company and charity under UK law. It operates under the name of International Hearing Voices Projects Ltd. The president is Marius Romme and the governing body is made up of people who hear voices and mental health practitioners.

Activities

Hearing Voices Groups

Hearing Voices Groups are based on an ethos of self-help, mutual respect and empathy. They provide a safe space for people to share their experiences and to support one another. They are peer support groups, involving social support and belonging, not necessarily therapy or treatment. Groups offer an opportunity for people to accept and live with their experiences in a way that helps them regain some power over their lives. There are hundreds of hearing voices groups and networks across the world. In 2014 there were more than 180 groups in the UK. These include groups for young people, people in prison, women and people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities.

World Hearing Voices Congress

INTERVOICE hosts the annual World Hearing Voices Congress. In 2015 the 7th Congress was held in Madrid, Spain, the 2016 Congress will be held in Paris, France. Previous conferences have been held in Maastricht, Netherlands, (2009); Nottingham, England (2010), Savona, Italy (2011), Cardiff, Wales (2012); Melbourne, Australia (2013); Thessaloniki, Greece (2014); Madrid, Spain (2015).

Annual World Hearing Voices Day

This is held on 14 September and celebrates hearing voices as part of the diversity of human experience, It seeks to increase awareness of the fact that you can hear voices and be healthy. It also challenges the negative attitudes towards people who hear voices and the assumption that hearing voices, in itself, is a sign of mental illness.

Website and Social Media Platforms

INTERVOICE maintains several forums on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

Research Committee

INTERVOICE has an international research committee, that commissions research, encourages and supports exchanges and visits between member countries, the translation and publication of books and other literature on the subject of hearing voices and other related extraordinary experiences.

Impact

Appearances in Media

  • Hearing Voices, Horizon Documentary, BBC, UK (1995).
  • Angels and Demons directed by Sonya Pemberton, f2003; produced by ABC Commercial, in Enough Rope, Episode 162.
  • The Doctor Who Hears Voices, Channel 4, UK.
  • The voices in my head TED2013, Filmed February 2013.

Hearing Voices Network Cymru (Wales) maintains a media archive of articles and news items about hearing voices for the last seven years.

A study investigating media reports of the experience of hearing voices found that 84% of the articles in the study contained no suggestion that voice-hearing can be ‘normal’. Half of those that did, put voice-hearing in a religious or spiritual context, for example considering the case of Joan of Arc. Most of the articles (81.8%) connected voice-hearing to mental illness. In some cases, auditory verbal hallucinations were simply equated with insanity.

Criticism of the Hearing Voices Movement

The Hearing Voices Movement has been criticised for its stance on medication and schizophrenia and for promoting non-medical and non-evidence-based approaches to severe mental illnesses in articles by Susan Inman from the Huffington Post, such as “People Who Hear Voices Need Science-Based Advice” in 2013, and “What You’re not Hearing About the Hearing Voices Movement” in 2015.

Specific criticisms of the hearing voices approach include:

  • Using ideas that do not support science-based ways of understanding illness.
  • Undermines people’s trust in medical help that might be crucial to their wellbeing.
  • Encourages people to focus on their voices when they may be having a hard time differentiating between what is real and what is not real.
  • Does not recognise the very different needs of people with severe mental illnesses.
  • By failing to differentiate between the needs of people who actually have psychotic disorders and those who do not, HVM poses serious risks.
  • Poses real danger for the substantial number of people who lack insight into their psychotic disorder.
  • People struggling with psychotic symptoms should not be advised to emphasize the meaning of auditory hallucinations.