+ Site Statistics
+ Search Articles
+ Subscribe to Site Feeds
Most Shared
PDF Full Text
+ PDF Full Text
Request PDF Full Text
+ Follow Us
Follow on Facebook
Follow on Twitter
Follow on LinkedIn
+ Translate
+ Recently Requested

Hallucinatory experiences in extreme-altitude climbers

Hallucinatory experiences in extreme-altitude climbers

Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology, and Behavioral Neurology 12(1): 67-71

This study attempted a systematic investigation of incidence, type, and circumstances of anomalous perceptual experiences in a highly specialized group of healthy subjects, extreme-altitude climbers. There is anecdotal evidence for a high incidence of anomalous perceptual experiences during mountain climbing at high altitudes. In a structured interview, we asked eight world-class climbers, each of whom has reached altitudes above 8500 m without supplementary oxygen, about hallucinatory experiences during mountain climbing at various altitudes. A comprehensive neuropsychological, electroencephalographic, and magnetic resonance imaging evaluation was performed within a week of the interview (8). All but one subject reported somesthetic illusions (distortions of body scheme) as well as visual and auditory pseudohallucinations (in this order of frequency of occurrence). A disproportionately large number of experiences above 6000 m as compared to below 6000 m were reported (relative to the total time spent at these different altitudes). Solo climbing and (in the case of somesthetic illusions) life-threatening danger were identified as probable triggers for anomalous perceptual experiences. No relationship between the number of reported experiences and neuropsychological impairment was found. Abnormalities in electroencephalographic (3 climbers) and magnetic resonance imaging (2 climbers) findings were likewise unrelated to the frequency of reported hallucinatory experiences. The results confirm earlier anecdotal evidence for a considerable incidence of hallucinatory experiences during climbing at high altitudes. Apart from hypoxia, social deprivation and acute stress seem to play a role in the genesis of these experiences.

(PDF emailed within 1 workday: $29.90)

Accession: 046210095

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 10082335

Related references

Time-varying signal analysis to detect high-altitude periodic breathing in climbers ascending to extreme altitude. Medical & Biological Engineering & Computing 53(8): 699-712, 2016

Control of ventilation in extreme-altitude climbers. Journal of Applied Physiology 61(2): 500-506, 1986

Control of ventilation in climbers to extreme altitude. Journal of Applied Physiology: Respiratory, Environmental and Exercise Physiology 53(4): 886-890, 1982

Hypoxic ventilatory response in successful extreme altitude climbers. European Respiratory Journal 27(1): 165-171, 2006

Hallucinatory experiences at high altitude. Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology, and Behavioral Neurology 13(2): 148-148, 2000

Persistent cognitive impairment in climbers after repeated exposure to extreme altitude. Neurology 39(2 Pt 1): 210-213, 1989

Endocrine and metabolic responses to extreme altitude and physical exercise in climbers. European Journal of Endocrinology 157(6): 733-740, 2007

Case Report: Severe Frostbite in Extreme Altitude Climbers-The Kathmandu Iloprost Experience. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, 2018

Cognitive changes at high altitude in healthy climbers and in climbers developing acute mountain sickness. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine 62(4): 291-295, 1991

Sleep and Breathing in Recreational Climbers at an Altitude of 4200 and 6400 Meters: Observational Study of Sleep and Patterning of Respiration During Sleep in a Group of Recreational Climbers. Sleep & Breathing 3(3): 75-82, 2002

Altitude Sickness in Climbers and Efficacy of NSAIDs Trial (ASCENT): randomized, controlled trial of ibuprofen versus placebo for prevention of altitude illness. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine 23(4): 307-315, 2013

Physiological characteristics of high altitude climbers. Science & Sports 3(2): 89-108, 1988

Physiologic affects of altitude on recreational climbers. American Journal of Emergency Medicine 27(9): 1081-1084, 2010

High altitude retinopathy in two himalayan climbers. Folia Ophthalmologica Japonica 36(7): 1236-1240, 1985

High altitude retinopathy in mountain climbers. Archives of Ophthalmology 93(6): 404-408, 1975