The spatiotemporal pattern of auditory cortical responses during verbal hallucinations
*Corresponding author for this work
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Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies can provide insight into the neural correlates of hallucinations. Commonly, such studies require self-reports about the timing of the hallucination events. While many studies have found activity in higher-order sensory cortical areas, only a few have demonstrated activity of the primary auditory cortex during auditory verbal hallucinations. In this case, using self-reports as a model of brain activity may not be sensitive enough to capture all neurophysiological signals related to hallucinations. We used spatial independent component analysis (sICA) to extract the activity patterns associated with auditory verbal hallucinations in six schizophrenia patients. SICA decomposes the functional data set into a set of spatial maps without the use of any input function. The resulting activity patterns from auditory and sensorimotor components were further analyzed in a single-subject fashion using a visualization tool that allows for easy inspection of the variability of regional brain responses. We found bilateral auditory cortex activity, including Heschl's gyrus, during hallucinations of one patient, and unilateral auditory cortex activity in two more patients. The associated time courses showed a large variability in the shape, amplitude, and time of onset relative to the self-reports. However, the average of the time courses during hallucinations showed a clear association with this clinical phenomenon. We suggest that detection of this activity may be facilitated by examining hallucination epochs of sufficient length, in combination with a data-driven approach.