Can people with Parkinson’s disease see ghosts? New research reveals troubling truth

Scientists have found a frontotemporal disconnect, which may explain why people with Parkinson’s say they can see ghosts.

About half of people with the disorder have “presence hallucinations,” in which they perceive a dark presence nearby, the Daily Mail reported. The phenomenon has been difficult to study due to its random nature. But Swiss scientists have developed a method to awaken the “ghosts” hidden in the minds of patients with Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the world, in order to assess their mental health.


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‘Awakened ghosts’

“The system is quite simple,” Professor Olaf Blanke of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology told Reuters, according to the Daily Mail. Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne published the research document on April 28, 2021, according to Daily Science. Up to 56 Parkinson’s disease patients from Switzerland and Spain participated in the study.

“One robot is in front of the subject and will measure the movement, and the second robot will send signals to the individual we are testing, to patients with Parkinson’s disease or to healthy subjects, and then when we induce a mismatch, then if the front robot is doing something else from the rear robot, this is the condition in which the “hallucination of presence” occurs, ”he explained. Simply put, the Blanke process uses robots to induce “presence hallucinations” – the feeling that someone is behind you when no one is actually there.

‘I call them my guardian angels’

“I call them my guardian angels. They don’t hurt me. They follow me. It’s heartwarming in a way, because I’m not alone, ”said Joseph Ray, who has had a career in tourism and has never been bothered by hallucinations. . , according to Science Daily.

Minor hallucinations often precede other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including tremors and muscle stiffness. As the disease progresses, people who have more severe hallucinations are more likely to experience cognitive decline, according to the report. Although the condition is generally considered a movement disorder, some patients experience mental symptoms such as psychosis, depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia.

The “brain stress test”, also called “ghost robot test” or “hallucination stress test”, was performed on 26 patients with Parkinson’s disease.

“When I had no control over the robot touching my back, I felt a presence, like there was someone with me touching my back,” Rey, who was one of the 26, explained to the media. . “It’s not exactly the same presence as my guardian angels. I feel the presence of my angels, but I never know when they will appear, and my angels have never touched me. ”

(Courtesy: Medical Dialogues)

‘Spiders falling from the ceiling’

Since 2015, Maurizio De Levrano, lighting designer based in Martigny and specializing in industrial, public and luxury lighting, has been living with Parkinson’s disease. He also has hallucinations.

“It happens when I’m alone, cooking or sitting at the table. I see some sort of spider falling from the ceiling out of the corner of my eye. I know full well they’re not there, but instinctively I’m still forced to turn around and look. I also felt a presence behind me. I felt like my mother’s ghost, ”he told the medium.

Parkinson’s disease, according to De Levrano, is like a dark tunnel that gets longer and longer as the disease progresses. “My father has Parkinson’s disease,” she said, adding that a nurse told her the man was remorseful and was responsible for her son having it too. “So I went to see him and told him not to regret it. Illness has been one of the greatest gifts of my life, ”he said.

“I was a man. Before, I could never have understood someone else’s pain. Being sick was very humbling. I am a better person because of Parkinson’s disease, because of the obstacles that come with my own body and my nervous system. and because I feel compelled to participate in research like this, ”he explained.

Quantify the occurrences

“We are developing something similar to a cardiac stress test, but instead of testing the heart, we are testing the brain,” Blanke said according to Science Daily.

Fosco Bernasconi, co-author of the article, said: “A major challenge with hallucinations is that they occur spontaneously, that their onset cannot be predicted, that many patients may not openly report them, perhaps. be out of fear, and that is currently the case. a great challenge for patients. Doctors quantify its occurrence, its phenomenology and its intensity ”.

This is the disturbing truth of Parkinson’s disease, that it usually begins in middle age or later in life after age 60 and is rare in young adults. But with the advancement of science and medicine, things look encouraging – it won’t always be necessary.

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