Auditory hallucinations: Failure to inhibit irrelevant memories

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The frequency of auditory hallucinations (AH) is associated with efficiency in inhibiting irrelevant memories, suggesting that the presence of AH may be related to the intrusion of strongly activated representations in memory. Therefore, we hypothesised that the inability to suppress irrelevant memories would be found only in patients currently experiencing AH. Method. Performance on a repeated, continuous recognition task was examined in 23 schizophrenia patients with AH present, 20 schizophrenia patients with AH absent, and 24 healthy controls. Results. Patients with current AH made significantly more inappropriate responses (false alarms) to distractors seen on previous runs of the task than nonhallucinating patients. The ability to detect targets (hits) was significantly better in healthy controls than schizophrenia patients, however, there was no significant difference between the two patient subgroups. Conclusions, The findings confirm that the presence of AH involves a failure to suppress memories that are not relevant to ongoing reality. We propose that a combination of deficits in inhibition and (episodic) memory provides a useful model of AH, which can accommodate many of the characteristic features of the symptom and fits well with the neuroanatomical circuitry that is believed to underlie the occurrence of AH.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-136
JournalCognitive Neuropsychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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