The neural basis of hallucinations and delusions

C R Biol. 2005 Feb;328(2):169-75. doi: 10.1016/j.crvi.2004.10.012.


Schizophrenia is a biologically based disorder characterised by false perceptions (hallucinations) and false beliefs (delusions). The underlying physiological cause of these mental abnormalities remains unknown. There is increasing evidence that one class of symptom, the 'made experiences' including delusions of alien control and thought insertion, is associated with abnormalities in the mechanism that predicts the outcome of intended actions (the forward model). For these patients active movements feel like passive movements. As a result these patients do not feel in control of their actions. However, comparison with various neurological disorders, such as those associated with parietal lobe lesions, suggest that this abnormal experience is not sufficient to explain the feeling that some other agent is controlling is one's actions. Preliminary evidence suggests that patients with schizophrenia have an exaggerated sense of agency. In combination with the feeling of not being in control, this exaggerated sense of agency could explain delusions of alien control in which the patient attributes his own actions to another agent. Little is yet know about the neural basis of the predictive mechanisms that create the feeling that we are in control of our movements. Such prediction requires integration of information about intended movements generated in frontal cortex with sensory processing in posterior regions of the brain. Measures of functional connectivity suggest that long-range interactions between frontal and posterior regions are abnormally reduced in patients with schizophrenia. Further research is needed to explore the precise involvement of long-range connections in the mechanisms of forward modelling.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Delusions / physiopathology*
  • Hallucinations / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology
  • Schizophrenia, Paranoid / physiopathology*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology