Pareidolia in Parkinson's disease without dementia: A positron emission tomography study

Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2015 Jun;21(6):603-9. doi: 10.1016/j.parkreldis.2015.03.020. Epub 2015 Mar 31.


Background: Pareidolia, which is a particular type of complex visual illusion, has been reported to be a phenomenon analogous to visual hallucinations in patients with dementia with Lewy bodies. However, whether pareidolia is observed in Parkinson's disease (PD) or whether there are common underlying mechanisms of these two types of visual misperceptions remains to be elucidated.

Methods: A test to evoke pareidolia, the Pareidolia test, was administered to 53 patients with PD without dementia and 24 healthy controls. The regional cerebral metabolic rate of glucose was measured using 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography in the PD patients.

Results: PD patients without dementia produced a greater number of pareidolic illusions compared with the controls. Pareidolia was observed in all of the patients having visual hallucinations as well as a subset of those without visual hallucinations. The number of pareidolic illusions was correlated with hypometabolism in the bilateral temporal, parietal and occipital cortices. The index of visual hallucinations was correlated with hypometabolism in the left parietal cortex. A region associated with both pareidolia and visual hallucinations was found in the left parietal lobe.

Conclusions: Our study suggests that PD patients without dementia experience pareidolia more frequently than healthy controls and that posterior cortical dysfunction could be a common neural mechanism of pareidolia and visual hallucinations. Pareidolia could represent subclinical hallucinations or a predisposition to visual hallucinations in Lewy body disease.

Keywords: Parkinson's disease; Psychosis; Visual hallucinations; Visual illusions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Dementia / physiopathology
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / metabolism
  • Functional Laterality
  • Hallucinations / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Illusions / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occipital Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Occipital Lobe / physiopathology
  • Parietal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Parietal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Positron-Emission Tomography* / methods
  • Temporal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology


  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18