Bridging the Gap Between Neuroscience and Psychiatry: Brain Imaging Studies of Hallucinations

presented by

Professor Judith Ford, Professor of Psychiatry, Co-director, Brain Imaging and EEG Lab, University of California, San Francisco 

When: Wednesday, October 19, 2016, 6:00-7:30 p.m.

Where: El Camino Hospital, 2500 Grant Road Mountain View, CA. New Main Hospital Conference Room E & F (Map/directions click here)

Registration: Registration required due to limited room capacity:
Email to:


This event is free and open to the public.

Printable PDF File Here

Auditory verbal hallucinations, or “voices”, afflict more than seventy per cent of individuals suffering from schizophrenia, and fifteen per cent of people with anxiety and mood disorders.  The voices are unbidden and are distinctly different from inner speech, which all people experience daily.  The inner voices of schizophrenia can be terrifying, self-deprecating, demeaning, vulgar, or intensely religious.  Importantly, unlike normal verbal experiences during daydreaming and mind wandering, these experiences also sound like external voices spoken by other people.  
Professor Ford will discuss their progress using brain-imaging tools to understand this phenomenology.  She will discuss a basic neural mechanism used by every animal on Earth to anticipate, suppress, and tag as “self”, sensations that result from our own actions and thoughts.  She will present neurobiological evidence that this mechanism is disrupted in patients with schizophrenia, perhaps explaining why their internal experiences are sometimes perceived as “non-self”.  She will also present fMRI data aimed at understanding visual hallucinations that are surprisingly prevalent in people with schizophrenia. She will explain why they typically have negative and threatening content.
Professor Ford’s data provide neurobiological support for the aberrant perceptual experiences many people with schizophrenia report.
Bio: Judith M. Ford is a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, where she co-directs the Brain Imaging and EEG Laboratory.  Judy earned her PhD in Neuroscience at Stanford University in 1975.  She moved up the academic ladder in the psychiatry department at Stanford University Medical School from post-doctoral fellow to full professor between 1975 and 2004, when she left for Yale University.  Late in 2007, she moved back to California, and took a faculty position in the psychiatry department at the University of California (San Francisco).  Throughout her 40-year career, she has used EEG-based methods to understand healthy and psychiatric populations.  Recently, she has added functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to her toolbox.  Her recent work focuses on EEG-based studies of a basic neural mechanism, the corollary discharge.  The corollary discharge has been studied across the animal kingdom, from nemotodes to primates.  It is a neural signal that accompanies all actions and prepares sensory areas of the brain for the arrival of sensations resulting from one’s own actions and tags them as coming from self.  Corollary discharge abnormalities in schizophrenia may help to explain auditory hallucinations and other symptoms of the disease.  This work is considered human “bench” neuroscience and provides a methodological and conceptual link to studies of species across the animal kingdom. In 2001, she received the Senior Career Contribution Award from the EEG and Clinical Neuroscience Society.  The Society for Psychophysiological Research (SPR) honored Judy’s work with their Distinguished Career Award in 2010. She served as President of SPR in 1998 and President of the Psychiatric Research Society in 2008.  She currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for NARSAD and chairs the Credentials (membership) committee for the American College of Neuropsycho Pharmacology (ACNP).  She received a 5-year VA Research Career Scientist Award in 2010.

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