A review of functional and structural neuroimaging studies to investigate the inner speech model of auditory verbal hallucinations in schizophrenia

Transl Psychiatry. 2021 Nov 11;11(1):582. doi: 10.1038/s41398-021-01670-7.


Although the pathophysiology of auditory verbal hallucinations remains uncertain, the inner speech model remains a prominent theory. A systematic review and meta-analyses of both functional and structural neuroimaging studies were performed to investigate the inner speech model. Of the 417 papers retrieved, 26 met the inclusion criteria. Meta-analyses found the left insula to be significantly active during auditory verbal hallucinations and to have a significantly reduced grey matter volume in hallucinators. Dysfunction of the left insula may contribute to the misattribution of inner speech due to its suggested roles in both inner speech production and the salience network. No significant activity was found at Broca's area or Heschl's gyrus during auditory verbal hallucinations. Furthermore, no structural abnormalities were found at these sites or in the arcuate fasciculi. Overall, evidence was found to both support and oppose the inner speech model. Further research should particularly include a systematic review of task-based trait studies with a focus on inner speech production and self-referential processing, and analyses of additional language-related white matter tracts.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Cortex*
  • Hallucinations / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neuroimaging
  • Schizophrenia* / complications
  • Schizophrenia* / diagnostic imaging
  • Speech