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Brain Disconnections May Help Trigger Parkinson’s Visual Hallucinations

Researchers focused on disconnected areas of the brain associated with attention and visual processing.

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Credit: University of Michigan

New research published in the journal Radiology has found a correlation between particular disconnected areas of the brain and visual hallucinations in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Visual hallucinations are a form of psychosis, usually seen with Parkinson’s disease, in which the affected individual cannot distinguish if the sensation is real or imagined. However, as to the cause of hallucinations in Parkinson’s disease, has always remained mysterious.

In the study, researchers focused on disconnected areas of the brain associated with attention and visual processing.

Connectivity or communication of certain areas of the brain was examined utilizing resting-state functional MRI (fMRI).

15 participants with a history of visual hallucinations, 40 without visual hallucinations, and 15 healthy controls had all been analyzed for brain connectivity.

Based on the results, the participants suffering from Parkinson’s disease had multiple brain areas that communicated less with the rest of the brain when compared to the control group.

Low functional connectivity was uncovered in the paracentral lobule, the precentral gyrus, the calcarine cortex, the superior occipital gyrus, and cuneus — all of which were related to deteriorating cognitive function commonly seen in Parkinson’s patients.

In participants who suffered from visual hallucinations, however, there were additional brain areas that proved decreased connectivity was occurring with the rest of the brain, specifically those crucial for attention and processing of visual data.

“This suggests that disconnection of these brain areas may contribute to the generation of visual hallucinations in patients with Parkinson’s disease,” concluded Menno M. Schoonheim, Ph.D., one of the lead researchers.

Jose Florez is the founder of Mental Daily. His work has appeared in Psychology Today, Glamour, The Huffington Post, among others. He is a mental health advocate, and currently studying psychology.

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