Properties of complex hallucinations associated with deficits in vision

Perception. 1996;25(6):715-26. doi: 10.1068/p250715.


Complex visual hallucinations are known to occur in individuals with impaired vision yet whose emotional and intellectual functions are within the normal range. These hallucinations, which were first reported by Charles Bonnet in 1760, have been described in many case studies, but have not been analyzed empirically to determine their major properties. In the present study, sixty complex hallucinators labeled as Charles Bonnet hallucinators were administered a questionnaire to determine the properties of their hallucinations. Combined use of multiple-correspondence analysis and hierarchical cluster analysis reveals a set of features that characterize the 'typical' Charles Bonnet hallucinatory experience: the hallucinators' experience occurs while they are alert and with the eyelids open; a sharply focused image appears suddenly, without any apparent trigger or voluntary control; the hallucination is present for seconds, does not move during this time, then suddenly vanishes. These features are discussed in terms of a 'dimension' of hallucinatory/perceptual experience, which ranges from discrete perceptual experiences to multiple, changing experiences. Possible mechanisms that underlie the Charles Bonnet hallucinations are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blindness / complications*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Hallucinations / etiology
  • Hallucinations / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Psychological Theory