For some people, hearing voices in their heads is a positive experience, not a sign of mental illness or cause for distress. Researchers at the University of Manchester are aiming to find out why.
Traditionally these auditory hallucinations, as psychologists call them, are associated with mental illness. They can be a symptom of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and sometimes depression.
But studies by Dutch researchers that began in the 1990s found that some healthy people also regularly hear voices. The scientists ran a program on Dutch television asking for volunteers who heard voices, and they got a surprising response. Many of the people who contacted them did not find the voices disruptive and had never felt the need to consult mental health services. Some even said they found the experience to be positive or inspirational.