Hypersensitivity to passive voice hearing in hallucination proneness

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 16 (2022)
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Abstract

Voices are a complex and rich acoustic signal processed in an extensive cortical brain network. Specialized regions within this network support voice perception and production and may be differentially affected in pathological voice processing. For example, the experience of hallucinating voices has been linked to hyperactivity in temporal and extra-temporal voice areas, possibly extending into regions associated with vocalization. Predominant self-monitoring hypotheses ascribe a primary role of voice production regions to auditory verbal hallucinations. Alternative postulations view a generalized perceptual salience bias as causal to AVH. These theories are not mutually exclusive as both ascribe the emergence and phenomenology of AVH to unbalanced top-down and bottom-up signal processing. The focus of the current study was to investigate the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying predisposition brain states for emergent hallucinations, detached from the effects of inner speech. Using the temporal voice area localizer task, we explored putative hypersalient responses to passively presented sounds in relation to hallucination proneness. Furthermore, to avoid confounds commonly found in in clinical samples, we employed the Launay-Slade Hallucination Scale for the quantification of HP levels in healthy people across an experiential continuum spanning the general population. We report increased activation in the right posterior superior temporal gyrus during the perception of voice features that positively correlates with increased HP scores. In line with prior results, we propose that this right-lateralized pSTG activation might indicate early hypersensitivity to acoustic features coding speaker identity that extends beyond own voice production to perception in healthy participants prone to experience AVH.

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