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Journal Article

On the distinction between involuntary musical imagery, musical hallucinosis, and musical hallucinations


Merrill,  Julia
Department of Music, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Music Institute, University of Kassel;

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Hemming, J., & Merrill, J. (2015). On the distinction between involuntary musical imagery, musical hallucinosis, and musical hallucinations. Psychomusicology, 25(4), 435-442. doi:10.1037/pmu0000112.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002A-1CF2-B
Musical imagery can occur in at least five different conditions: (1) voluntary musical imagery: participants are asked to imagine a tune; (2) involuntary musical imagery (a.k.a. as “earworms”): music comes to mind without deliberate attempt; (3) permanent involuntary musical imagery: long-term imagery, “earworms” that become chronic and persist; (4) musical hallucinosis: a disorder associated with musical hallucinations among individuals with organic impairments such as hearing loss; and (5) musical hallucinations: music is “simply there” as a symptom of various (mental) disorders. This article is an attempt at a qualitative distinction between these imagery conditions based on a continuum of how real versus how imagery-like the percept of music is. We propose that these behavioral specifications find their neural correlate in the activation of the primary auditory cortex. The underlying etiology and (possible) pathological condition might not be the most favorable classifier of the brain activity on this level. The model suggested is based on an existing review of the literature, including metastudies and a number of single-case studies. In our view, the foremost duty in handling individuals affected by long-term imagery is to provide a proper and differentiated diagnosis, to overcome their biggest concern that they might be “turning mad.” The cases reported suggest that the conditions and symptoms are stable and not progressive, which might be of some relief. A research strategy is suggested to investigate the validity of the model and to test the hypothesis. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)