Hallucinations: "It's the Dopamine, S... - Parkinson's Movement

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Hallucinations: "It's the Dopamine, Stupid!"

For some months, we have been unpleasantly aware of a certain TV ad claiming that a large percentage of PwP are prone to hallucinate. The disease is a big enough monkey on our backs, do we need an added social stigma like this? Well, if you thought those hallucinations are just a sign of brain disease, take comfort: our dopamine-raising meds could be to blame. Came across an article on superstition ( nautil.us/issue/60/searches... ) with this interesting observation:

"People, just like pigeons, are desperate to understand how the world works and map out its patterns. We know a bit about the biological process underlying this drive. It appears that a neurotransmitter—a chemical that neurons use to communicate with each other—called dopamine is strongly implicated in pattern detection in the brain. Very broadly speaking, the more dopamine you have at work in your brain, the more patterns you see.

"Dopamine tags perceptions as meaningful. If there is too little dopamine, we don’t notice any patterns, and if there is too much, we perceive patterns that are not there. We might jump at every shadow, thinking it’s a murderer. Our view of the world would be full of misconceptions—and we would become paranoid. Our dopamine levels have to be set correctly.

"In fact, we are all born with default dopamine levels: This often determines how we see the world. The Swiss neuroscientist Peter Brugger ran a famous experiment testing the extent to which one’s dopamine output determined one’s worldview. He showed images of faces to participants, some of whom had admitted to believing in the paranormal and in religion, and others who had said they were skeptics. Some of the images were easily recognizable as faces and some were degraded to the point where it was hard to discern facial features. The skeptics saw few facial patterns while the believers saw many.

"Half of the skeptics were then unwittingly given a dose of levodopa, a drug that temporarily increased their dopamine levels. With levodopa, these skeptics behaved more like the believers—they saw more faces in the images. Because it could manipulate a person’s pattern sensitivity by changing their dopamine levels, this experiment showed that higher dopamine levels can cause more pattern detection. The process also works in reverse: Mexican neuroscientists Victor de Lafuente and Ranulfo Romo found that when thrust into unpredictable environments, monkeys had an increased amount of dopamine in their brains.

"It turns out that when we are confronted with a situation that presents no obvious pattern our brains amp up the dopamine levels, making us superstitious. The situation creates cognitive confusion and we respond accordingly . . . "

And, it seems to me that with our debilitated brains and bodies, and our slower reaction times, the bar is lowered for what feels like an "unpredictable (i.e., risky) environment" and what will thus trigger off hallucinations. For example, navigating our darkened house in the evening could be a problem for us, but not for a healthy person.

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Having PD and trying to stay positive is enough without having to see those commercials. Every time it comes on I change the channel.

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Interesting info dumpelkin. I have always thought that hallucinations are part of PD however they may not appear until a drug tips the balance. Thats why the treatment includes reducing the meds.

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Doctors are trying to push enormous amounts, after all they are not the ones that have Parkinson's.

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Rats, mice, and monkeys are not the only ones being "experimented on" with strong drugs. But we furless, two-leggers have the advantage that we participate of our own accord. Another perk is that we are not "sacrificed" at the end of the experiment.

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What on Earth do you do? After all we go to the doctor to get well. You have to trust somebody at sometime.

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Dear Parkie13, Please excuse if I exceed the normal limits of this forum, and engage in some spiritual/psychological palaver. This is only my personal opinion. It may be distasteful to some, and , if so, I hope they will ignore this private conversation between you and me.

It is natural and human that we want to get better. But at this time, the doctors cannot halt, let alone reverse this disease. They do the best they can. So how can we bear up under the shadow of PD and make the best of a bad situation? After we have done what we can with elixirs/drugs, lifestyle, etc., the one tool remaining--potentially the most powerful of all--our biggest enemy and biggest friend--is our mind. Gautama Buddha said that desire is the root of suffering. As long as we grasp onto the desire to recover physically, we will suffer mentally. But you say that particular desire is non-negotiable: an ordinary person has not advanced to the point where he can dis-identify with the body, experience his innate immortality, and transcend the "crucifixion" of this disease.

So, in our present, humble state, what can we do? The age-old advice applies. We can focus on service to others (in whatever small way is accessible to us). For example, responding to you, as I am doing right now, takes my mind off myself and engrosses me in a "feel good" activity.

Let us remember those who are less fortunate than ourselves, feel for them, and admire the heroes among them. For example, whenever I start to fall into a pity party, I can remember the magnificent example of Stephen Hawking, the recently deceased physicist, who was trapped in a body paralyzed by ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease.) He had adversity far worse than my own, yet his sense of humor was legendary. Thinking of him, I buck up, and receive great encouragement to go on. May you also find inspiring examples that will help uplift and energize you.

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Your wisdom and insight is most refreshing in your commentaries here, “dumpelkin”! Thank you for your sharing! The increasing dopamine levels, connected with hallucinations, I can relate to, and reaching out to help others, in spite of my own PD and Ataxia, and Seizure diagnoses and struggles, is an excellent way to cope! All neuro-degenerative diseases are very difficult to deal with, but, at least, with PD, Levodopa does help, somewhat, with symptoms, for a time.

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I have never had hallucinations, but this is very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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The best way to get rid of that ad would be a patient boycott.

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Very interesting

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Thanks for posting this. Really interesting - one of those things that seems so obvious when one realises it.

Thinking about our sleep device - many people with PD have said that it has deepened their sleep and stopped or reduced dreams - and a couple have said that they began ti dream again, having stopped. I was wondering if this could be dopamine linked, but I think that both are probably simply the effects of more deep sleep, the first perhaps explained by a change in deep sleep / REM balance, and the second by a change in sleep that was overall, too light. As aalways, I'd be interested in your thoughts. Best, Anna

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Anna,

I don't know much about the dynamics of dreams and sleep. I imagine the first step should be to gather data on dreaming from this community. One would make a dedicated post soliciting concise feedback on dreams and sleeping. It would ask questions such as "Since the advent of this disease, have there been any notable changes in the (frequency, duration, content, etc.) of your dreams?" As a PwP, I have not noticed any decrease in my dreaming, even though my supplies of dopamine are supposedly much reduced relative to my younger self. So, I don't think that Dopamine has much to do with our night-time visualizations. On the other hand REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), is another kettle of fish, and may indicate a huge effect of dopamine on the sleeping brain.

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Your second post was well written and outstanding. You reminded me that God told to lover the self and other.

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Thank you for that...very informative

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