Yale uses psychics to understand the psychosis of hearing voices

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Yale researchers have tried an uncommon method to understand people with psychosis who hear voices. They are looking to so-called “psychics” to understand the science of hearing voices.

“We have known for some time that people in the general population can have the experience of hearing voices-sometimes frequently-without the need for psychiatric intervention,” said Albert Powers, a psychiatry fellow and lead author of the study.

As many as one in 25 people hear voices at any given time and up to 40% may report hearing a voice at some time in their lives. Most do not meet criteria for mental illness. But finding healthy people to study who hear voices has been difficult.

“Studying psychics through the lens of voice-hearing may give us important insights into why they are able to function so well without the need for psychiatric care” Powers said.

By comparing the psychics’ experiences with those of people with schizophrenia and a control group of healthy subjects, the authors claim to have found some clues as to what may be protecting this group of healthy voice-hearers.

“These individuals have a much higher degree of control over the voices. They also have a greater willingness to engage with and view the voices as positive or neutral to their lives,” Corlett said. “We predict this population will teach us a lot about the neurobiology, cognitive psychology and eventually treatment of distressing voices.”

Researchers say the approach may be unusual, but is justified by lack of progress in treating illnesses like schizophrenia.

“Our understanding of psychosis is limited, and we’ve made only incremental progress for the past 50 years,” Corlett said. “The research may be unusual, but big, intractable problems require creative and sometimes unorthodox solutions.”

The Yale Department of Psychiatry and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation provided primary funding for the research.

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