fMRI capture of auditory hallucinations: Validation of the two-steps method

Hum Brain Mapp. 2017 Oct;38(10):4966-4979. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23707. Epub 2017 Jun 28.


Our purpose was to validate a reliable method to capture brain activity concomitant with hallucinatory events, which constitute frequent and disabling experiences in schizophrenia. Capturing hallucinations using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) remains very challenging. We previously developed a method based on a two-steps strategy including (1) multivariate data-driven analysis of per-hallucinatory fMRI recording and (2) selection of the components of interest based on a post-fMRI interview. However, two tests still need to be conducted to rule out critical pitfalls of conventional fMRI capture methods before this two-steps strategy can be adopted in hallucination research: replication of these findings on an independent sample and assessment of the reliability of the hallucination-related patterns at the subject level. To do so, we recruited a sample of 45 schizophrenia patients suffering from frequent hallucinations, 20 schizophrenia patients without hallucinations and 20 matched healthy volunteers; all participants underwent four different experiments. The main findings are (1) high accuracy in reporting unexpected sensory stimuli in an MRI setting; (2) good detection concordance between hypothesis-driven and data-driven analysis methods (as used in the two-steps strategy) when controlled unexpected sensory stimuli are presented; (3) good agreement of the two-steps method with the online button-press approach to capture hallucinatory events; (4) high spatial consistency of hallucinatory-related networks detected using the two-steps method on two independent samples. By validating the two-steps method, we advance toward the possible transfer of such technology to new image-based therapies for hallucinations. Hum Brain Mapp 38:4966-4979, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Trial registration: NCT01373866.

Keywords: fMRI; hallucinations; independent component analysis; interview; reliability; reproducibility; schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Female
  • Hallucinations / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hallucinations / drug therapy
  • Hallucinations / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Schizophrenia / diagnostic imaging
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology


  • Antipsychotic Agents

Associated data