July 12, 2005

Musical Hallucinations

Reginald King underwent bypass surgery seven years ago and found that he was experiencing something quite odd while recovering in the hospital. King kept hearing different songs that he had heard in his lifetime, but no one else was hearing them. King is 83 and is experiencing something called musical hallucinations.

King was referred to a psychiatrist last year named Dr. Aziz who explained to him that he was experiencing musical hallucinations, something more common than people think. As Zimmer (2005) states, "Dr. Aziz belongs to a small circle of psychiatrists and neurologists who are investigating this condition. They suspect that the hallucinations experienced by Mr. King and others are a result of malfunctioning brain networks that normally allow us to perceive music. They also suspect that many cases of musical hallucinations go undiagnosed."

Dr. Aziz is currently researching this phenomenon and states that he believes that it will only get more common in future decades. Several musical composers of the past have experienced musical hallucinations, although in those times it was usually thought to come from someone or something other than one's own mind.

About two thirds of the researched cases have only experienced musical hallucinations without any other mental disturbance. Women seem to be more likely to experience them and patients tend to be older; the average age was 78.

Dr. Aziz believes that the musical hallucinations are different from the auditory hallucinations that those with schizophrenia often hear because this is solely music, whereas auditory hallucinations usually are not. This observation must be researched more fully before it can be verified.

There is currently no typical procedure for treating those who have musical hallucinations. Some use antipsychotic medication, others use cognitive behavioral therapy. What actually works to stop musical hallucinations is still going to need to be discovered.

The source of this article was The New York Times, by Carl Zimmer.

For more information on musical hallucinations go to: http://tinyurl.com/ch5gq Or http://tinyurl.com/a2ujf


Is this just the ability to imagine a song and play it over in your mind or a symptom of a medical condition?

I have Schizophrenia and am also a songwriter. Sometimes music drifts in and out of my mind. Clear, original melodies to which I can mentally attach lyrics.

Posted by: C K Yap at July 13, 2005 01:50 AM

When you have a musical hallucination you are actually hearing the music and you can not differentiate it from reality. It is like a real auditory hallucination, but with music. So in response I must say that it is a symptom of some type of medical condition, not just the ability to imagine and play the song in your head. It is also nearly impossible for someone with musical hallucinations to "turn them off". Hope this helps.

Posted by: Christine at July 13, 2005 07:11 PM

My mil is currently experiencing musical hallucinations; your articles and discussion have helped her realize she isn't crazy, just feeling that way!

Posted by: Sharon at June 21, 2006 01:22 PM

When I was a child, voices, mostly rhymes and psalms (my upbringing was highly religious), played all the time in my head. I don't remember having the voices during my childbearing years, however. Nor do I remember them when I was parenting and in college earning my BA and my Master's.

I had what I call a mental meltdown when my son went to war in 2003. Several things happened in quick succession from 03 to 04 when he returned. Ever since, songs and/or jingles play repeatedly in my head and I'm unable to concentrate or focus. It is debilitating.

I was a writer who used to teach College English and conduct social research for a major research university. Now I only leave the house once a week to see my therapist and 4 to 5 times a year to shop. I never knew anyone else had this problem, but it doesn't help me have my life back.

Posted by: Debra at April 9, 2007 01:40 PM

i recently started to experience this phenom.....at first it was highly amusing, as i described wot i was hearing to friends...but now, it is an accursed nuisance, driving me potty at times.

Posted by: caroline clifford at July 17, 2007 04:42 PM

About a year ago I started hearing what sounded like a radio playing softly in another room, but I couldn't make out what the music was. In the last 6 months, I've been hearing the music, no words, to many of the songs I learned as a child. I usually add a new song to my "playylist" (!) once a week or so. I recently had a CT scan and what they thought was a fusiform aneurysm showed up in my middle cerebral artery. I had a cerebral angiogram yesterday, however, and the vascular neurosurgeon said it was just a serpentine tortuous series of arteries entertwined together, that looked like an aneurysm on the CT scan. So, back to the drawing board, but I'm relieved to know it's not an aneurysm!

Posted by: Ellen at September 29, 2007 11:06 AM

I have bipolar disorder with no prior history of auditory hallucinations. I also have a history of TIA's (tiny strokes). I am 40 years old. The past few months I have been awakened about 9 times in the early morning hours by the sound of some sort of bell or ringing from another room. I don't hear melodies - just the ringing of a telephone (different from the ring of my real telephone); a school bell; a doorbell, and so forth. That's it. I wonder whether I could be having TIA's again. Or could it be seizures? Some people believe that bipolar disorder will in the end be discovered as being a form of epilepsy. Any thoughts? My psychiatrist isn't sure what to make of it.

Posted by: Elizabeth at November 4, 2007 05:22 PM

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