This month in voices: June 2013

June. One of my favourite months, particularly if it finds me in Iceland, as on June the 24th, according to Icelandic folklore, not only do cows gain the powers of speech (what do they say? can they also sing? the latter question being one for you right Broca fans out there. You know who you are) but seals become human (why seals? why?). Furthermore, if you sit at a crossroads where all four roads lead to separate churches, elves will attempt to seduce you with food and gifts (wikipedia, I hope you’re not misleading me). Anyway, I appear to have digressed. Back to voices…


Durham UKDurham, England. Angela Woods explores the figure of the “voice-hearer”.

Accessible summary. This paper examines how, 25 years after the beginning of Hearing Voices Movement (which allows the author the wonderful line, “Before 1987, there were no voice-hearers”), the identity of “the voice-hearer” has become established as an one which people can “adopt, inhabit, and mobilise in order to lay claim to a view of voice-hearing as meaningful within the context of people’s lives”. It is an excellent read, and I recommend it.

Link to paper:


Bern Switzerland2Bern, Switzerland. Homan and colleagues examine brain activity in voice-hearing’s favourite gyrus, the superior temporal (the inferior frontal comes in a respectable second).

Accessible summary: This paper found that people who hear voices, when ‘at rest’ (i.e., sitting in an MRI scanner doing nothing in particular), have greater activity in their left superior temporal gyrus (lSTG), than non-voice hearers. Furthermore, even after they have been treated by transcranial magnetic stimulation (see previous posts for infomation on this treatment) directed at the lSTG, their levels of resting lSTG activation are still higher than non-voice hearers. The authors therefore conclude that higher resting levels of lSTG activation is a trait of voice-hearers (i.e., a stable characteristic) , rather than a state (i.e., it doesn’t only increase when people are hearing voices). The authors fit this into a model where (and take a deep breath now if you don’t like ‘deficit’ terminology) voices are a caused by a “permanent defective monitoring of inner speech (i.e., a trait which is always there) and a “temporary misattribution of internally generated speech” (i.e., a state which varies).

Link to paper: (paper is free to read)


St LouisSt Louis, USA. Sheffield and colleagues examine if childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is associated with hearing voices.

Accessible summary: After examining whether there was an association between voice-hearing and a range of forms of child abuse, the authors concluded that their findings supported the notion that “childhood sexual abuse is a specific risk factor for the experience of auditory hallucinations in psychotic disorder patients.”

For those of you with a statistical bent though, the results section may raise a few eyebrows regarding the question of the specificity of CSA to voices. This does not negate the authors’ important conclusion though that “Clinicians should obtain an abuse history from patients who experience auditory hallucinations, since the patient might not reveal such a history and miss appropriate treatment”

Link to paper:


Other papers:

  • A paper on the need for “Experience Focused Counselling”, which makes some interesting points, but, without wishing to editorialise, I have no absolutely idea how it got through peer-review.


Anyway, more next month. For those of you appalled that there are no papers from Utrecht this month, please make do with this picture and hope that next month brings a restoration of normality.


I’m off to ponder what cows would say if they could talk.


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2 Responses to This month in voices: June 2013

  1. T.M. Luhrmann says:

    Hi Simon, I love your postings! this one for fun for next time

  2. Katherine Henshall says:

    Thanks for your blog – it’s both informative and entertaining!

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