[Paleopsych] BBC: Why 'imaginary voices' are male

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Wed Jul 13 22:17:05 UTC 2005

Why 'imaginary voices' are male

A university research team says it has discovered why most people
"hearing voices" in hallucinations say they hear male voices.

Dr Michael Hunter's research at the University of Sheffield says that
male voices are less complex to produce than female.

As such, when the brain spontaneously produces its own "voices", a
male voice is more likely to have been generated.

Among both men and women, 71% of such "false" voices are male.

'False perception'

"Psychiatrists believe that these auditory hallucinations are caused
when the brain spontaneously activates, creating a false perception
of a voice," says Professor Hunter of the university's psychiatry department.

"The reason these voices are usually male could be explained by the
fact that the female voice is so much more complex that the brain
would find it much harder to create a false female voice accurately
than a false male voice," he says.

Such imaginary voices are typically likely to be middle-aged and
carry "derogatory" messages.

The research, published in NeuroImage, shows how the brain interprets
information from human voices - and how female and male voices
activate different parts of the brain.

"The female voice is more complex than the male voice, due to
differences in the size and shape of the vocal cords and larynx
between women and men, and also due to women having greater natural
'melody' in their voices.

"This causes a more complex range of sound frequencies than in a male
voice," says Professor Hunter.

These gender differences in voices trigger responses in different
parts of brain - and as the male version is simpler, both men and
women who hear voices, are on average more likely to produce a
male-sounding voice.

The research says that "auditory verbal hallucinations" are a symptom
of schizophrenia and "occur in 40% to 60% of patients who suffer from
the condition".

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