What are the little voices we hear inside ourselves? Perhaps, they are but angels and devils whispering into our hearts? Scientists, unsurprisingly, do not believe that; rather, they have explained the occurrence of our “inner voice” in terms of our conscience. What is its real origin, though? Researchers of a new study hope that shedding light on this mystery in healthy people is a potential way to help those with schizophrenia and other similar disorders.
Peter Mosely, a psychologist from Durham University, UK, believes that understanding the origin of inner monologues in healthy people can assist in treating patients who hear imaginary voices like schizophrenia patients. He is involved in a project that has as goal to delve into the phenomenon of hearing voices in the absence of external stimuli, a condition known as auditory verbal hallucinations.
The inner voice that is alluded to has been studied for years. Now that science has brought forth sophisticated methodologies for investigation, much has been revealed. For example, neuroimaging testing has shown that the region of the brain controlling speech – the Broca’s area – is active when the inner voice is “speaking” to us. Mosely has thus associated auditory hallucinations with “inner speech”; he said in a statement that they “might simply be a form of inner speech that has not been recognised as self-produced”.
Mosely highlights the need to find out the origin of our inner voice.
“We also need to understand what the experience is like, how we can help people who are distressed by it, and when there’s a need for psychiatric care,” he says. “But to do any of this, we first need to know what typical inner speech is like, and the underlying neuroscience is part of that understanding.”