New Insights Into Parkinson’s Hallucinations

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By Amy Norton
       HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 3, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Parkinson’s illness is extensively seen as a motion dysfunction, however it could possibly trigger an array of signs, together with hallucinations. Now a brand new research has make clear what is going on within the mind throughout these disturbances.

The research centered on Parkinson’s sufferers who’ve so-called presence hallucinations — a false feeling that one other individual is close by.

Researchers discovered that they have been capable of induce the hallucinations in a gaggle of Parkinson’s sufferers utilizing a reasonably easy “robot ghost test” — which concerned a robotic arm that touched the affected person’s again.

That, in flip, allowed them to map the mind exercise that appeared to underlie the hallucinations — together with disrupted connections in elements of the mind’s frontal and temporal lobes.

Experts mentioned the findings — reported April 28 within the journal Science Translational Medicine — might result in a greater understanding of Parkinson’s hallucinations.

One eventual hope, the researchers mentioned, is to develop an goal approach to diagnose and delve into particular person sufferers’ hallucinations.


Right now, analysis usually relies on sufferers telling their docs about their hallucinations — which many hesitate to do.

So the issue is under-diagnosed, mentioned Fosco Bernasconi, one of many researchers on the research.

“Our robotic procedure provides the opportunity to investigate specific hallucinations in real time, and in a fully controlled environment and conditions,” mentioned Bernasconi, a senior scientist with École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Geneva.

Parkinson’s illness impacts almost 1 million individuals within the United States alone, in accordance with the Parkinson’s Foundation.

It includes an irregular buildup of a protein referred to as alpha-synuclein within the mind. Over time, the mind loses cells that produce dopamine, a chemical that helps regulate motion and emotional responses.

The most seen signs of Parkinson’s are movement-related — reminiscent of tremors, stiff limbs and coordination issues.

“But Parkinson’s is complex. It’s much more than a movement disorder,” mentioned James Beck, chief scientific officer for the nonprofit Parkinson’s Foundation.

The illness is without doubt one of the mind, Beck defined, and it could possibly trigger signs starting from issues with reminiscence and considering, to melancholy and nervousness, to impairments in speech, imaginative and prescient and sense of scent.


Then there are the signs of psychosis — which, Beck famous, is a “hard word” for individuals to digest. Hallucinations fall into that class, however points reminiscent of presence hallucinations are thought of “mild.”

“People are aware that they’re having them,” Beck mentioned. “They’re completely cogent.”

A affected person concerned within the new analysis, Joseph Rey from Geneva, started to have presence hallucinations after present process surgical procedure for Parkinson’s. He would have a recurring sensation that he was being accompanied by a number of individuals, both behind him or by his aspect.

Rey has been unbothered by it, although.

“I call them my guardian angels,” he mentioned. “They do me no harm. They follow me around. It’s reassuring in a way, because I am not alone.”

Another affected person, Maurizio De Levrano of Martigny, Switzerland, skilled presence hallucinations — what felt just like the “ghost of my mother” — in addition to visible ones.

“I see spiders of sorts falling from the ceiling out of the corner of my eye,” he mentioned. “I know very well that they are not there, but instinctively, I am always compelled to turn and look.”


Visual hallucinations are extra widespread in Parkinson’s than the presence sort, Beck mentioned. Again, individuals could be unbothered by them.

“But it’s still important to let your doctor know about them,” Beck mentioned.

For one, he defined, hallucinations are typically associated to Parkinson’s medicine modifications, or interactions amongst totally different drugs a affected person is taking.

In these instances, Beck mentioned, it is likely to be doable to regulate a medicine. There are additionally two medicine — clozapine and pimavanserin — that may be prescribed to ease hallucinations, he famous.

The new analysis concerned 26 Parkinson’s sufferers who underwent the robotic check. Each affected person was requested to make repeated “poking” gestures, whereas a robotic arm mimicked the gesture on the affected person’s again. Sometimes the human and robotic have been out of sync of their gestures — and that, the researchers discovered, was capable of spark presence hallucinations.

The phenomenon occurred even in sufferers who didn’t expertise the hallucinations in every day life — but it surely was extra intense in those that did.


In separate research of 30 extra sufferers and a gaggle of wholesome adults, Bernasconi’s staff used MRI scans to see how mind exercise patterns have been associated to presence hallucinations.

“Hopefully,” Beck mentioned, “this will allow more investigation to better understand these hallucinations, and maybe lead to new therapies.”

Hallucinations, he famous, can portend extra extreme psychosis signs, together with delusions — the place individuals imagine issues which can be unfaithful.

So it is vital that the “stigma” round hallucinations be lifted, Beck mentioned, and sufferers and docs discuss them.

         More data

The Parkinson’s Foundation has extra on psychosis symptoms.

SOURCES: Fosco Bernasconi, PhD, senior scientist, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Geneva, Switzerland; James Beck, PhD, senior vp, chief scientific officer, Parkinson’s Foundation, New York City; Science Translational Medicine, April 28, 2021, on-line

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