, Volume 253, Issue 12, pp 1561-1571
Date: 27 Sep 2006

Peduncular hallucinosis

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Abstract

Peduncular hallucinosis (PH) is a syndrome of hallucinations and brainstem symptoms which has only been described in single case reports. A detailed analysis of five patients was undertaken to investigate the clincial characteristics, hallucinations and behavioural abnormalities of PH in greater detail. Frequent clinical symptoms were oculomotor disturbances, impaired arousal, dysarthria and ataxia. In the chronic stage, sleep-wake cycle disturbances were common. Hallucinations were naturalistic, complex, scenic, mostly visual, but also combined visual-acoustic or visual-tactile and recurred stereotypically over months. Patients experienced their hallucinations as genuine and were unable to discriminate their percepts from reality. Neuropsychological testing disclosed severe impairments of episodic memory, occasionally coupled with confabulatory behaviour. By contrasty, memory for hallucinations remained intact. Deficits of attentional and executive functions were found in a subgroup of patients. Associated abnormal behaviours were common, comprising confusion, delusional misidentification for persons and places, and loss of disease awareness. PH appeared after focal lesions in various regions, such as the midbrain, thalamus and pons. These findings document that subcortical, brainstem-related hallucinations are vivid, recurring percepts that have a strong naturalistic character and are often associated with cognitive and behavioural abnormalities. It seems likely that brainstem hallucinosis is caused by damage to ascending reticular systems and thalamocortical circuits. Available observations suggest that PH compromises cognitive functions which enable us to differentiate between illusionary percepts and reality, a reality monitoring system.