(Disclaimer: If you have a history of epilepsy, don't watch the video below.)
Scientists have discovered a controlled way to induce hallucinations in people.
As UNSW Associate Professor Joel Pearson from the School of Psychology explains,
We have known for more than 100 years that flickering light can cause almost anyone to experience a hallucination. However, the unpredictability, complexity and personal nature of these hallucinations make them difficult to measure scientifically.
Pearson performed a study which claims to have been able to cause a hallucination in 100 healthy subjects.
The researchers used the video above to induce the visual hallucination.
Now, don't expect to suddenly start seeing Abraham Lincoln 69-ing with a Porsche in hell all of a sudden. The visual hallucination is, of course, mild.
What happens is if you look at the video long enough, you will start to see grey blobs appear within the ring. These grey blobs are not actually there.
Something like this:
Pearson explains the importance of this study thusly:
With our technique we get rid of the unpredictability. People don't see windmills, lines, or different colours; they just hallucinate grey blobs. Once the hallucination is stable like this, with just the blobs, we can start to objectively investigate the underlying mechanisms. Nobody has been able to do this before, because they haven't been able to overcome this key challenge.
As Indy100 points out, the team is using these findings to study the hallucinations that those with Parkinson's disease suffer from.
They hope that by discerning the method by which an induced hallucination operates, they can better understand those caused by the brutal disease.
It will help inform us about what is happening pathologically in the brain during hallucinations, and ultimately help us develop new treatments.
This is really important work, but also causing a hallucination is just, um, "cool."