Signs of increased cortical hyperexcitability selectively associated with spontaneous anomalous bodily experiences in a nonclinical population

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Oliver Brincat
  • Louise Stapley
  • Arnold J Wilkins

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Essex


Introduction. The current study examined the presence of cortical hyperexcitability, in nonclinical hallucinators, reporting different forms of anomalous bodily experiences (ABEs). Groups reporting visual out-of-body experiences and nonvisual sensed-presence experiences were examined. It was hypothesised that only those hallucinators whose experiences contained visual elements would show increased signs of visual cortical hyperexcitability. Methods. One hundred and eighty-two participants completed the "Pattern-glare task" (involving the viewing of striped gratings with spatial frequencies irritable to visual cortex)-a task known to reflect degrees of cortical hyperexcitability associated with hallucinatory/aura experiences in neurological samples. Participants also completed questionnaire measures of anomalous "temporal-lobe experience" and predisposition to anomalous visual experiences. Results. Those reporting increased levels of anomalous bodily experiences provided significantly elevated scores on measures of temporal-lobe experience. Only the visual OBE group reported significantly elevated levels of cortical hyperexcitability as assessed by the pattern-glare task. Conclusions. Collectively, the results are consistent with there being an increased degree of background cortical hyperexcitability in the cortices of individuals predisposed to some ABE-type hallucinations, even in the nonclinical population. The present study also establishes the clinical utility of the pattern-glare task for examining signs of aberrant visual connectivity in relation to visual hallucinations.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-573
JournalCognitive Neuropsychiatry
Issue number6
Early online date26 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Anomalous body experiences, Cortical hyperexcitability, Embodiment, Hallucinations