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Auditory Hallucinations: Nomenclature and Classification

Blom, Jan Dirk MD, PhD*; Sommer, Iris E. C. MD, PhD

Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology: March 2010 - Volume 23 - Issue 1 - p 55-62
doi: 10.1097/WNN.0b013e3181b2791e
Review Article

Introduction The literature on the possible neurobiologic correlates of auditory hallucinations is expanding rapidly. For an adequate understanding and linking of this emerging knowledge, a clear and uniform nomenclature is a prerequisite. The primary purpose of the present article is to provide an overview of the nomenclature and classification of auditory hallucinations.

Materials and Methods Relevant data were obtained from books, PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library.

Results The results are presented in the form of several classificatory arrangements of auditory hallucinations, governed by the principles of content, perceived source, perceived vivacity, relation to the sleep-wake cycle, and association with suspected neurobiologic correlates.

Conclusions This overview underscores the necessity to reappraise the concepts of auditory hallucinations developed during the era of classic psychiatry, to incorporate them into our current nomenclature and classification of auditory hallucinations, and to test them empirically with the aid of the structural and functional imaging techniques currently available.

*Department of Psychiatry, University of Groningen, Parnassia Bavo Group, The Hague

Department of Psychiatry, Neuroscience Division, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Reprints: Jan Dirk Blom, MD, PhD, Parnassia Bavo Group, Paradijsappelstraat 2, 2552 HX, The Hague, The Netherlands (e-mail:

Received for publication October 27, 2008

accepted April 19, 2009

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.