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Hearing the Voice

Hearing the Voice is an interdisciplinary research project based at Durham University and funded by the Wellcome Trust, which aims to provide a better understanding of what it is like to hear voices when no one is speaking.

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Transcript of Hearing the Voice

Johann Knopf from the Prinzhorn Collection
Therapeutic Management
What is it like to
hear voices
Our Partners
Learn More
Learn More
We work with a number
of different partner institutions.

Cognitive neuroscience
investigates how alterations in the normal
information processing mechanisms
in the brain give rise to voice-hearing experiences.

Phenomenology is the systematic study of experience.
Hermeneutics is the theory and practice of interpretation.
We believe that there are a number of advantages to
taking an interdisciplinary approach
to understanding the phenomenon of hearing voices:

'Stop, Look, Listen:
The need for philosophical phenomenological analyses of auditory verbal hallucinations.'
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. (7):1-9

In collaboration with the Lived Experience Research network,
we launched a new research study into the experience of hearing voices. The study consisted of an on-line questionnaire which could be completed anonymously.
Read . . .
We've been developing an app,
Inner Life
, to examine variations in inner speech and how they relate to variations in voice-hearing experiences.

Our Postdoctoral Research Associate in Psychology,
Ben Alderson-Day
, explains why.

What is it like to hear voices?
A questionnaire study
McCarthy-Jones, S., Waegeli, A. and Watkins, J.
(2013) . '
Spirituality and Hearing Voices': Considering the Relation.'

5 (3): 247-258.

Woods, A.
'The Voice-Hearer.'

Journal of Mental Health
22 (3): 263-270.

Woods, A.
'Rethinking Patient Testimony in the Medical Humanities: Schizophrenia Bulletin’s First Person Accounts.'

Journal of Literature and Science
6.1 (2013): 38-54.

Read . . .
. . . exploring different kinds of
inner speech
and new ways
to monitor them
through fMRI studies.
. . . collaborating with the
Max Planck Institute for Human Development
in Berlin and working with
Russ Hurlburt
Descriptive Experience Sampling
We have been ...
Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation
. . . using non-invasive brain stimulation such as
transcranial magnetic stimulation
(TMS) and
transcranial direct current stimulation
(tDCS) to examine the neural and cognitive mechanisms underlying voice-hearing.
Read . . .
P. Moseley, C. Fernyhough & A. Ellison, (2013)

'Auditory verbal hallucinations as atypical inner speech monitoring, and the potential of neurostimulation as a treatment option'
Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews


Listen ...
Meet the team:
Project Directors:
Professor Charles Fernyhough
Principal Investigator

Dr Angela Woods
Dr Ben Alderson-Day
Postdoctoral Research Associate in Psychology
Durham University
Prof. Andre Aleman
Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry
University of Groningen
Prof. Richard Bentall
Professor of Mental and Behavioural Brain Sciences
University of Liverpool
Dr Marco Bernini
Junior Research Fellow in the Department of English Studies
Durham University
Dr Felicity Callard
Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences for Medical Humanities
Durham University
Prof. Chris Cook
Professorial Research Fellow in the Department of Theology & Religion
Durham University
Prof. Jane Macnaughton
Professor of Medical Humanities
Durham University
Dr Simon McCarthy-Jones
Macquarie University
Dr Hilary Powell
Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Centre for Medical Humanities and the Department of English Studies
Mary Robson
Arts in Health & Education
Prof. Corinne Saunders
Professor in the Department of English Studies
Durham University
Prof. Matthew Ratcliffe
Professor in the Department of Philosophy
Durham University
Prof. Patricia Waugh
Professor in the Department of English Studies
Durham University
Dr Sam Wilkinson
Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Philosophy
Durham University
Dr Susanne Weis
Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology
Durham University
Extended Research Team:

Dr Paul Allen
Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Pyschiatry at the Maudsley
Kings College London

Dr Alison Brabban
Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Trust / Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer in the Mental Health Research Centre
Durham University
Dr Matthew Broome
Honorary Consultant Psychologist at the Coventry & Warwickshire Partnership Trust
Warwick University
Dr Guy Dodgson
Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Northumberland Tyne & Wear NHS Trust
Dr Simon Downer
Clinical Lecturer
Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
Bristol University
Dr Robert Dudley
Programme Director & Honorary Clinical Lecturer in the School of Psychology
Newcastle University
Dr Amanda Ellison
Senior Lecturer in the Department of Pscyhology
Durham University
Prof. Judith Ford
Professor in Residence, Department of Psychiatry
University of Calfornia, San Francisco
Shona Illingworth
Dr Renaud Jardi
Functional Neuroscience and Pathologies
Lille North of France University
Dr Frank Larøi
Department of Psychology
University of Liege
Prof. Louis Sass
Professor in the Graduate School of Applied & Professional Psychology
Rutgers University
Dr Jon Simons
Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience
University of Cambridge
Advisory Board

Dr Lisa Blackman
Reader in Media & Communications
Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof. Steven Connor
Professor of English
University of Cambridge
Dr Simon Dein
Senior Lecturer of Anthropology & Medicine
University of London
Jacqui Dillon
National Chair of Hearing Voices Network UK
Board Member, Intervoice
Dr Sandra Escher
Honorary Research Fellow
Birmingham City University
Prof. Shaun Gallagher
Professor of Philosophy
University of Memphis
Prof. Gail Hornstein
Professor of Psychology
Mount Holyoke
Nev Jones
Doctoral Researcher, DePaul University
Founder of the Voices & Visions Lab
Eleanor Longden
Coordinator of the Intervoice International Research Committee
Doctoral Researcher, Leeds University
Sara Maitland
Writer & Lecturer in Creative Writing
Lancaster University
Prof. Joe Riley
Professor in the School of Medicine, Pharmacy & Health, Durham University
Prof. Marius Romme
President of Intervoice
Prof. Veronica Strang
Director of the Institute of Advanced Study
Durham University
Adam Tivenan
Expert by Experience
Our research into voice-hearing centres around five different Work Packages:

Cognitive Neuroscience
Therapeutic Practice
cognitive and neural mechanisms
are involved when someone is hearing voices?
How has voice-hearing been interpreted and represented in different
cultures, religions and historical periods
How can we
improve clinical practice
in cases
where people find their voices distressing?
Hearing the Voice
is an ambitious interdisciplinary research project that aims to answer these, and other, questions.
We hope to provide a better understanding of the experience of hearing a voice when no one is speaking by:
Examining this phenomenon from different academic perspectives
Working with clinicians and other mental health professionals
Listening to people who have heard voices themselves
Who are we?
core research team
, based at Durham University in the UK, consists of 18 academics from cognitive science, cultural studies, English

literature, medical humanities, philosophy, psychiatry, psychology and theology.
We also have an
extended research network
of over thirty collaborators and advisors that includes researchers from national and international institutions, clinicians and mental health professionals from regional NHS Trusts, artists, voice-hearers and other 'experts by experience'.
In this work package, we're asking questions like:
What is it
to hear voices?
What kinds of

are associated with hearing voices?
How is hearing a voice in the absence of any speaker related to
one's own 'inner voice
' - i.e. verbal thoughts or normal 'inner speech'?
Do some voice-hearing experiences have their roots in
memories of early trauma
Listen ...
Hilary Powell, our Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Medical Humanities and English Studies, is exploring representations of visions and voice-hearing in Latin miracle narratives and saints' legends.
Our work in this area focuses on the following questions:
What kinds of
do people give to their voices? How do they
interpret the experience
When voice-hearing is considered to be a religious or spiritual experience,
how is the 'Voice of God' identified
and interpreted by individuals, texts and communities?
The development of
therapeutic practice designed to help those who are
distressed by their voices
is one of the key aims of the Hearing the Voice project.
'Voice Club' is the name we have given to our regular
project meetings
for members of the research team and invited guests.
Our Voice Club Facilitator,
Mary Robson
, explains her role in bringing the research team together.

Listen ...
Voice Club
Voice Collective
is a London-wide project set up in order to support
young people
who hear voices, see visions or have other unusual sensory experiences.
A Little Insight
' - this 'stigma busting' animation was created by young people at the Voice Collective. It is shown in schools and on-line in order to educate people about hearing voices and to break down barriers between young people.
Hearing Voices Network

Hearing Voices Network
is a user-led organisation which offers
to people who hear voices and those who support them.
We have been privileged to collaborate on a series of activities with HVN and have hosted a number of
North-East HVN Networking Events
in Durham.
Image courtesy of Hilary Powell, 2013.
We also work in close partnership with the
Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys (TEWV) NHS Foundation Trust.
Best Practice in Psychosis Conference
Best Practice in Psychosis Follow-up Day


Hearing the Voice and the Arts
Core Research Team:
Image: Agnes Richter's Jacket.
Detail photographed by Liz Aldag
Participants were invited to reflect on aspects of their voice-hearing experiences. Questions included:
How are
experiences different from your own
Does it feel as if the
have their own

What kinds of
are associated with your
How does your
feel when you experience voices?
Inner Ear illustrations by Mary Robson 2013
Federico Carbajal 2010

Watch . . .
We have been working with
Guy Dodgson
and colleagues in the
Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
in order to develop a iPad manual
Jacqui Dillon
, the national chair of the Hearing Voices Network, delivered a
3-Day Hearing Voices Group Facilitation and Network Development Training Programme
hosted by Hearing the Voice in Durham in February 2013.
Divine and Demonic
- a medieval board game devised by Dr Hilary Powell.
This resulted in the development of at least
six Hearing Voices Groups
across the region.
Mary Robson and Hilary Powell
Read ....
Hearing the Voice
Our collaborations include:
Joint Special Interest Group in Psychosis
, run in collaboration with the
Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust
provides an opportunity for dialogue between mental health professionals, service users, academic researchers and students.
Speakers cover a wide variety of topics and issues.

For more information, visit the link below:
Daniel Collerton
speaking on 'Seeing things that aren't there: what we think we know about visual hallucinations'
Adam Plus One
In 2012, we worked with a person who hears voices to create a 3 minute film on his experience of psychosis.

"We are recovering together. He can come
and go as he pleases ... Who am I? Who is the
'plus one' here?"
The film was commissioned for the
Cinema & Psychosis
festival at the Barbican in London, and also shown in
Lionel the Spaceship of our Imagination
and at the
Time to Change
Day in Newcastle upon Tyne.
A location from the film.
Photo Mary Robson
Durham Book Festival
Other cultural events
HtV researchers,
Charles Fernyhough
Richard Bentall
, together with Advisory Board member,
Eleanor Longden
, spoke at
Medicine Unboxed 2013.
We helped bring early modern vocal ensemble
The Clerks
to Durham in October 2013 to perform
'Tales from Babel: Musical Adventures in the Science of Hearing'
- a music and science collaboration designed to explore how we do (or don't hear) text in polyphonic music.
Edited by
Darren Richard Carlaw
Angela Woods
, it contains a collection of
walking narratives
and a specially commissioned short story by the acclaimed writer
Iain Sinclair
, author of
American Smoke
and pioneer of British psychogeography.
Voicewalks is a special edition of
StepAway Magazine
, dedicated to the creative exploration of
inner speech
within the context of
walking in the city
To download an electronic copy of Voicewalks, please click here:

Charles Fenyhough's
'Life in the Chatterbox'
explains recent research into
inner speech
and its potential role in voice hearing experiences.

Read more here:

spoke to BBC Radio 4 's
Saturday Live
about his experience of hearing voices.
We also hope to help
reduce stigma
raise awareness
of voice-hearing.
Our stall at the
2013 Time to Change Village
in Newcastle enabled us to connect with local service users, mental health professionals, volunteers and members of the public, and to talk to them about how we can help to increase public understanding of voice-hearing in the North-East.
Read ...
Exchanging ideas between researchers from different disciplines
guards against the development of reductionist accounts
of voice-hearing.

Using humanities based approaches, in addition to scientific and clinical analysis,
helps to capture the richness of the personal, philosophical and cultural meanings
given to the experience of hearing voices.
We hope to develop
a transferable methodology
for research in the medical humanities that allows knowledge from the arts and humanities to inform and be informed by scientific and clinical research.

Produced in association with the
Memory Network
, our '
Voices, Memory, Forgetting
' event brought together some of the UK's leading journalists, writers and psychologists for a day-long conversation about memory, creativity and voice hearing.
Angela Woods (left) chairs a panel discussion with Richard Bentall, Lisa Blackman and Eleanor Longden
Pat Waugh in conversation with Carolyn Jess-Cooke, author of
The Boy Who Could See Demons
International Consortium on Hallucination Research (ICHR)
In October 2013, Hearing the Voice hosted the second meeting of the International Consortium on Hallucination Research.
We provided an opportunity for academics and mental health professionals to meet for a two-day discussion of
working group findings
hallucinations research
in individuals with and without clinical needs.
Read ...

Joint Special Interest Group in Psychosis
Map of support groups for people who hear voices in the North-East of England.
Website: www.durham.ac.uk/hearingthevoice
Blog: hearingthevoice.org
Twitter: @hearingvoice
We hope you enjoyed
For example ...
Report on the 2nd meeting of the International Consortium on Hallucination Research
Photo credit: Ben Gilbert/Wellcome Images
Project Co-director
this introduction to our research.
Thank you for your interest.
Our events ...
Our workshop on
'Voices, Visions and Hallucinatory Experiences in Historical and Literary Contexts'
brought historians, psychologist, medical humanities researchers and literary scholars together in order to explore various aspects of hallucinatory experiences in the
early modern period
You can read a blog post about the event here:

cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
for distressing voices.
We also hosted a
at the
2014 Shuffle Festival
in Tower Hamlets Cemetery that provided members of the public with the opportunity to talk to voice-hearers and march alongside them in an
'anti-stigma rally'
Full transcript