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Full Version: Everyday noises are making our brains noisier + 1st ever body-maps of hallucinations
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Everyday noises are making our brains noisier

INTRO (excerpts): We have all experienced not noticing a sound until it goes away. [...] If our ears are not being damaged and we can mostly tune it out, should these noises concern us? We should indeed notice it and be concerned for the sake of our brains. A noisy environment has many underrecognized negative impacts that have little to do with hearing per se...

[...] In Why We Sleep, University of California, Berkeley sleep scientist Matthew Walker calls the lack of proper sleep “the greatest public health challenge we face in the 21st century.” Sleep is becoming more recognized as crucial for our health, as it affects our cardiovascular system, our immune system, and our ability to think. Noise is one of the biggest culprits keeping us from a good night’s rest. Noise—even at fairly low sound levels—has a harmful impact on quantity and quality of sleep. Noise keeps us awake longer and awakens us earlier. While sleeping, noise in the environment affects the quality of sleep, prompting body movements, awakenings, and increased heart rate. Traffic noise can shorten periods of REM (dream) and slow-wave (deep) sleep, and diminish one’s perception of the restfulness of a night’s sleep.

In our waking lives, the insult of “safe” noise to the sound mind can be especially pernicious for children. Children are masters of language learning. Parents are gobsmacked at the short amount of time that elapses between observing their child say their first word to their speaking in full sentences. Sound to meaning connections are formed with great rapidity. Children cannot help learning the languages they are exposed to—even more than one. But what if the sounds children are exposed to at this critical age are meaningless?

This question is difficult to address in humans because it is impossible to control noise levels adequately in a real-world setting. However, we can answer questions like this in animal experiments. By controlling the duration, intensity, and quality of sound exposure, it is possible to get a direct look at how the electrical signals—the currency of the nervous system—in the brain are affected. Just what happens to our sound minds when we are exposed to “safe” noise? And are these effects transient or permanent? (MORE - details)

First ever body-maps of hallucinations

RELEASE: Leicester psychologists have, for the first time, created body-maps of the sensations which arise during hallucinations in people experiencing psychosis.

The study, published in The Lancet's EClinicalMedicine, provides the most extensive descriptive data to date on the feelings which arise during hallucinations and where individuals reported sensations in the body. University of Leicester researchers also studied the emotions reported during hallucinations, with confusion, fear and frustration being the most common.

Although there was great variation in the localisation of feelings across participants, for each individual feelings were recurrently concentrated in particular body areas. Areas of concentration often held repeated sources of feelings like pain, heat, or tension.

Dr Katie Melvin, of the Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour at the University of Leicester and corresponding author for the study, said: "During a systematic review of existing research, we found indicators of the contributions that multiple senses, emotions and feelings may make to hallucinations.

"We designed a study and developed the novel but simple multimodal unusual sensory experience (MUSE) map method to investigate these features further. MUSE maps involve documenting hallucinations in daily life and include body-mapping. The article shares new insights through body-maps and data on the immediate feeling of hallucinations.

"The range of feelings in the body and around the body (into peri-personal space) were particularly interesting. Participants often described that the method helped them share experiences that were difficult to put into words.

"The methods and outcomes of this study can contribute to advances on how we understand hallucinations and how we can support people who experience them. The next steps for this area of research will be further understanding the embodiment and feeling of hallucinations in different populations and developing interventions to support with this."

Psychosis is a term which describes experiences where an individual may have difficulties in determining what is real and what is not real. Research indicates psychosis is associated with experiencing trauma, adverse life events, and stress. People may be given a diagnosis such as schizophrenia. Experiences of perceiving or believing things which those around us do not can also occur in physical health conditions such as brain tumours or acute infections.

Psychosis can have serious adverse outcomes on individuals including distress, lack of sleep, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, difficulties in carrying out daily activities, experiences of discrimination and lost opportunities.

Participants in this study were asked by the research team to prospectively document the feeling and senses of hallucinations for one week prior to an interview. Novel visual diary methods involving drawing, writing and body-mapping generated 42 MUSE maps, which set out the specific areas across the body -- and beyond, in so-called peripersonal space -- where participants experienced sensations during hallucinations.

The study found that hallucinations were characterised by numerous feelings arising at once, often including multisensory, emotional, and embodied features. Researchers suggest further uptake of visual, ecological and prospective methods may enhance understandings of lived experiences of hallucinations.