Hallucinations is a condition wherein a person begins to have visuals which are not present in reality. It comes as a part of mental disorders like schizophrenia which tends to alter the brain activity and disrupt the normal signalling thereby creating a new visual world altogether for the patient. It is severe as it tends to isolate the patient from the world. Sometimes hallucinations also come as a part of heavy drug dosage. Patients, post-trauma are treated with drugs like morphine to reduce the pain and as a result of that drug patients often hallucinate. It can also happen with drug abusers. In serious cases, the person might lose his life.
Although the exact mechanism of hallucinations is still unknown, the researchers from the University of Oregon in Eugene conducted a study to know the exact manifestation of this drug inside the brain. The study is able to give out chunks of important information but it is still not sufficient.
The researchers took mice as the model organism for this study. They administered a popular hallucinogen named 4-iodo-2,5-dimethoxyphenylisopropylamine (DOI) into the body of the mice. This drug has been previously used as a hallucinogen for animals. The drug interacted with serotonin 2A receptors which takes part in serotonin reuptake. Although it performs various other functions too this was its prime function.
Researchers observed that the signalling between neurons of the visual cortex was disrupted. Visual cortex is that part of the brain which is responsible for the interpretation of the visual information. And perhaps that’s one of the major reasons hallucinations affect in the way it does. Another major observation was that the timing of the firing patterns of neurons was also affected.
Although even with the drug, the brain received the same visual information. However, the problem lies in the interpretation of the same or processing of the visual information.
“Understanding what’s happening in the world is a balance of taking in information and your interpretation of that information. If you’re putting less weight on what’s going on around you but then overinterpreting it, that could lead to hallucinations.” Criss Niell, the Associate Professor of the University of Oregon said.
He also stated that the study was conducted on mice which is probably not the ideal organism as animals are unable to communicate their experiences. It was just a part of a big project. More information is soon to be out.