Abigail Wright, 24th October, 2019

The Biennial meeting of the International Consortium on Hallucination Research (ICHR) took place on the 12th& 13thSeptember 2019 in Durham, UK. The conference commenced with an introduction to ICHR from Charles Fernyhough. The ICHR takes place every year, alternating between working group presentations (as it was this year) and satellite meetings (a traditional conference style with presentations). Working groups are made up of individual researchers with a shared interest in a specific topic. Groups can work together on evidence reviews, protocol designs, or experimental data collection.

After the great introduction, ICHR working groups met separately to discuss updates and action plans. The following sessions, across the two days, were plenary sessions, each with three working groups presenting their work for 20 or 40 minutes; depending on stage of their project. I have included some highlights below:

Photo credit: Marcella Montagnese.

Matteo Cella and Susan Rossell presented preliminary results from the ICHR multiside study which involved over 1000 participants worldwide, with ECHR member Peter Moseley as Working Group Leader), (pre-registration to the study can be found here: https://osf.io/eqy76/). Initial results suggest a link between hallucinations and signal detection theory, but not source monitoring or dichotic listening. This group also presented a review of Cognitive Remediation Therapy literature, which was found to show limited improvements in positive symptom. This proposed some interesting questions, including (1) are common cognitive tests not sensitive to hallucination-specific processes; (2) do we have another replication crisis? With small signficiant effects, but little generalisability or replication potential.

Photo credit: Marcella Montagnese.

The second working group to present focused on computational approaches to understanding hallucination. The ECHR’s David Benrimoh described three computational models used to explain hallucinatory experiences and Pantelis Leptourgos described Jardri & Deneve’s circular inference theory and its application to hallucinations.

Another ECHR member, Clara Humpston, has been leading a working group on bodily and multimodal experiences. Following Clara’s introduction,Sohee Park and some others in the working group presented data using B-BODI, a measure of bodily self-disturbance, which showed links with dissociation, perceptual aberration, positive symptoms and loneliness.

Emma Palmer-Cooper and I presented our working group a study protocol for examining  metacognition and predictive processing in relation to hallucinations. We were able to showcase the protocol we have put together with our working group and ask for outside feedback. We received some very valuable comments, which we are excited to implement and look forward to sharing our pre-registered report soon. Follow us on Twitter to keep updated! @DrAbigailW & Dr_emmaclaire

 The next morning, an Open Space session was facilitated by Mary Robson. This was an opportunity for attendees to discuss and develop new topics and is one of the ways that future working groups are formed. There were many interesting discussions and people were free to move between groups depending on what they felt they could contribute. . A wide number of topics were covered, including moving away from “deficit” models of hallucination, facilitating participatory methods in research, and developing an understanding of felt presence phenomena.

Photo credit: Ben Alderson-Day

Following the Open Space, Tanya Luhrmann talked about the role of culture in non-clinical voice-hearing groups. She described the interviews with psychics, members of spiritualist churches and other religious experts conducted by her and her collaborators. A key aim of this working group is to understand more about the groups of people who typically get included in research on “non-clinical” hallucination-like phenomena.

Photo credit: Emma Palmer-Cooper

Next, ECHR Events Lead Catherine Bortolon presented the working group on the relationship between shame and voice hearing. As the first step, the working group conducted a survey to ask people with lived experiences of hearing voices what were their priorities in terms of research.

Photo credit: Ben Alderson-Day

David Smailes closed the third plenary session with a talk about community augmented meta-analysis (CAMA), which is a novel tool that combines meta-analyses and an open, evolving repository. That is, the results of the meta-analyses can be extended by new research continuously, so that meta-analysis results are always up to date and reflect current knowledge. 

The afternoon started with the working group on the use of neurofeedback for the treatment of hallucinations (led by Paule Allen), followed by an update from the psychedelic working group. Many ICHR and ECHR members presented their work during this session, including David Dupuis, Martin Fortier, and Pantelis Leptourgos.

Photo credit: Imogen Bell

Neil Thomas introduced a working group that is seeking to develop practice guidelines to support therapeutic conversations about distressing voices. This project will begin with a Delphi study to develop consensus from people with lived experience and clinicians regarding helpful ways to talk to and support someone experiencing distressing voices. This will feed into guidelines to support non-specialist clinicians, and others, to have therapeutic conversations about voices.

At the ECHR and ICHR event, a number of members were interested in being involved in a working group. I have included some information/tips below:

  • Information about dates and proposing ICHR working group can be found here: https://hallucinationconsortium.org/working-groups-and-publications/
  • If you have an idea for a potential working group:
    • Find other ECRs initially to support your idea (posting or starting a new channel on ECHR on slack is helpful to reach a number of people at one time)
    • Read my earlier blogpost on this: https://echr.group/2019/07/29/leading-an-international-working-group/
    • Co-leading has been very helpful as you can divide the time and responsibilities for larger tasks, e.g. Emma and I divided the project into two main tasks (computer task design and experience sampling methodology design) or smaller tasks, e.g. one co-lead can take minutes of the meeting whilst the other co-lead can chair the meeting.
    • Be confident in your idea!
  • If you want to be involved in a group:
    • Approach researchers connected with ICHR
    • At ICHR, I learnt that individuals can always be added to working groups at a later date. If you hear about a working group that is in your area of expertise, emailing the group lead may be a great start to a new collaboration.