Julian Jaynes Society September/October 2022 Newsletter
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The Belief in a Fundamental Psychic Process Hinders Progress in Psychology
“If understanding a thing is arriving at a familiarizing metaphor for it, then we can see that there always will be a difficulty in understanding consciousness. For it should be immediately apparent that there is not and cannot be anything in our immediate experience that is like immediate experience itself. There is therefore a sense in which we shall never be able to understand consciousness in the same way that we can understand things that we are conscious of” (Jaynes 1976, p. 53).
I have often wondered why so many well-credentialed researchers continue to bark up the wrong tree in their quest to understand consciousness. Many reasons could be offered, but in a recent discussion on the “Julian Jaynes — The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” Facebook page someone brought up Jaynes’s aforementioned quote. The perspicacity of this citation has always haunted me. After some contemplation it occurred to me that one reason so many struggle to grasp Jaynes is because of their premise that consciousness is a sort of stand-alone psychic force or stuff that can animate our minds the way blood infuses our bodies. In other words, some of us believe in the existence of “pure consciousness” or experience unqualified by conception, association, or immediate apprehension. Whatever “pure consciousness” is, the assumption is that it can be cleanly detached from the psyche in the same way early scientists attempted to isolate the essence of life in a test tube (vitalism). Most researchers, I suspect, do not explicitly know their projects are distorted by this erroneous presumption. And that’s a big problem, because if we are not mindful of our background presuppositions we can never interrogate and test their validity. The belief in an innate, primary psychic process, untainted by empirical experience, hinders progress in psychology.
The Disguises of Consciousness
Can the “I” directly encounter some sheer essence of cognition (whatever that is)? Can one think without thinking? Can one perceive without perceiving? Can one experience without experiencing? Can information be stripped down to an informationless version so that the flow of data is somehow untouched and untreated by the immediacy of the real world? Is there consciousness without content? An experience of experience? I do not think there is since psychological processes by their very nature demand content of some sort, i.e., they require input from the environment.
In the same way there is no such thing as valueless numbers, waterless oceans, or lightless sunbeams, there is no such thing as contentless consciousness. We use the term consciousness as a convenient, ambiguous abstraction, an imprecise generality; its experience arises from a vague, intuitive sentiment. Few of us seriously consider its actual nature, and when we do, we have a tendency to entangle it in perception, thinking, and other psychological processes. This allows consciousness to disguise itself, thereby confusing us about its actual nature. But in the same way we can never discover pure numberness, we can never find unadulterated consciousness. Psyche cannot be distilled down into some quintessence. No fundamental nature of mentation is to be discovered, as if psychological processes possess a substance-like distillate. There is no extract of mind. And yet this appears to be the premise of many research projects investigating consciousness.
Consciousness as a Convenience
Any type of experience, no matter how unprocessed and unmodified, requires an experiencer. But if even the notion of uncontaminated and unsullied consciousness has validity, it implies that someone or something must be registering the experience. Though the “I” of Jaynesian consciousness might seem a candidate for an inner person-like entity that records experience, we need to remember that like other contents of consciousness, it is a product of the machinery of mentation and lacks complete objective detachment from the world.
As an analogy, consider the elements constituting perception: (1) a perceiver (experiencer); (2) perceiving (experiencing); and a (3) percept (the experienced). Is it possible to isolate these three aspects, as if uncontaminated sensation floats about, existing among the three elements? For analytical purposes, yes, but such a maneuver is methodological (for research purposes) and does not mean they can be ontologically disentangled from each other. This point applies to consciousness.
Or consider meditation. This exercise prioritizes our thoughts, provides perspective, and de-emotionalizes our stormy waters of the mind. It may seem as if an “I” were doing the meditation. In reality, however, it is our mind’s tireless stagehands working backstage, supporting a provisional “I.” This subject self is recreated second-by-second in our mental theater, creating the illusion that an executive, in-charge, directing egoic, “I” is the star of the show.
The Benefits of “Pure Consciousness”?
Of course, pure consciousness may exist (in the same way that God may exist), but as of now it is difficult to scientifically demonstrate this. It is not my prerogative to dismiss clients or individuals who claim to have encountered pure consciousness (sort of like the unconditioned “original mind” of Buddhism), anymore than it is my business to argue with them about the existence of God. If some experience or belief helps someone deal with the overwhelming terror is sometimes reality, that is a good thing. Along these lines, Jungian psychology has of late garnered much attention. Despite Jung’s intellectual influence, I do not accept his claims about the collective unconscious and archetypes. However, if these provide growth and guidance for an individual, so much the better.
Join us for a 90-minute Q&A session with Boban Dedovic, Marcel Kuijsten, Brian McVeigh, Ted Remington, Bill Rowe, Jan Sleutels, and Laurence Sugarman. We will do our best to answer all of your questions on Julian Jaynes’s theory as well as on our latest book, Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind.
Have questions about Jaynes’s theory? Do you still have lingering questions after reading Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind? This is your opportunity to have them answered directly by the interviewees themselves.
This online event will be held on Saturday, November 5th, 2022 at 1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern/8pm GMT.
Free and open to the public (RSVP required).
More info and RSVP here: https://www.julianjaynes.org/event/qa-on-conversations-on-consciousness/
JJS members can RSVP directly (must be logged in).
Non-members can RSVP by sending us an Event RSVP message.
A link to join the event will be sent to all RSVPs.
Buy Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind – on sale now.
Important Julian Jaynes Society updates and developments that you might have missed… also be sure to check out our latest blog posts in the menu to the right.
RSVP for this upcoming event:
Q&A on Julian Jaynes’s Theory plus Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind Book Discussion, November 5, 2022
Read latest book, Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind, on sale through the end of October.
Read “The Myth of “Pure Consciousness” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.
Read “Animal Minds? Yes. Animal Consciousness? No.” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.
Our latest book, Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind, was published on August 22! All pre-orders were shipped in early August and the book is now available for immediate shipping. It is also available on Amazon sites worldwide and via special order from most bookstores.
Watch “David Duchovny Explains Julian Jaynes’s Theory to Bill Maher” on the Related Interviews page.”
Test your knowledge of Julian Jaynes’s theory by taking our three new quizzes.
Read “Consciousness Is the Word Preventing People from Understanding Jaynesian Psychology” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.
A new documentary on preliterate societies, new Q&A, and a new lecture by Eric Alexander La Freniere from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up.
The Julian Jaynes Society is honored to welcome Dr. Clive Svendsen to the Science Advisory Board.
Pre-order our latest book: Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind
Read our May/June 2022 Newsletter.
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Read “Julian Jaynes Is Not for the Intellectually Fainthearted” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.
Pre-order our latest book: Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind
Read our Spring 2022 Newsletter.
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Read “The Need to Acknowledge Bicameral Vestiges” by Brian J. McVeigh on the JJS Blog.
New articles, dissertations, and a new lecture by Roy Baumeister from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up.
A newly discovered interview with Julian Jaynes, new related articles, and a lecture from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up.
A new lecture by Julian Jaynes, new articles, dissertations, and a new lecture from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies posted in the Member Area. Log in or Sign up.
The Julian Jaynes Society is honored to welcome Professor Martin Seligman to the Science Advisory Board:
Professor Seligman is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology and Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he focuses on positive psychology, learned helplessness, prospection, optimism and positive education. He is a best-selling author of several books, including Flourish. His most recent book is The Hope Circuit, his autobiography.
Read more about Professor Seligman.
The hardcover edition of Der Ursprung des Bewußtseins durch den Zusammenbruch der Bikameralen Psyche (the German edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available in Germany (also serving many other EU countries), France, Italy, Spain & Portugal, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
We are pleased to announce that the revised hardcover edition of The Julian Jaynes Collection has just been released in the United States, France, Germany (also serving many other EU countries),, Italy, Spain & Portugal, and United Kingdom. It will soon be available for order wherever books are sold. This beautifully produced book has the cover art printed right on the case, similar to a textbook, so no dust jacket to lose or get torn. Perfect for Jaynes enthusiasts, collectors, and libraries.
The Julian Jaynes Society is honored to welcome Professor Edoardo Casiglia and Professor Laurence Sugarman to the Science Advisory Board:
– Professor Casiglia, MD, is Professor of Internal Medicine at University of Padova, Italy. He is a specialist in cardiology, pharmacology, anesthesia and intensive care, a clinical hypertension specialist, and an anthropologist and forensic archeologist.
– Professor Sugarma, MD, is Research Professor and Director of the Center for Applied Psychophysiology and Self-regulation in the College of Health Sciences and Technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT); a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at the Easter Seals Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Rochester, New York; and Clinical Professor in Pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Read more about Professor Casiglia and Professor Sugarman.
The hardcover edition of La naissance de la conscience dans l’effondrement de l’esprit bicaméral (the French edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available in France, Germany (also serving many other EU countries), Italy, Spain & Portugal, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
RSVP for this Upcoming Event:
Q&A on Julian Jaynes’s Theory with Marcel Kuijsten, Brian McVeigh, and Special Guests, May 1, 2021
Watch the interview with Boban Dedovic: “The Evolution of Mind Words in the Iliad and the Odyssey“ (Julian Jaynes Society Interview Series). Log in or Sign up.
We are pleased to announce that the hardcover edition of Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind has just been released in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and United Kingdom. It will soon be available for order wherever books are sold. This beautifully produced book has the cover art printed right on the case, similar to a textbook, so no dust jacket to lose or get torn. Perfect for Jaynes enthusiasts, collectors, and libraries.
“The Voice In Your Head,” by Sophie McBain, with discussion of Julian Jaynes’s bicameral mind theory and Jaynes’s influence on the Hearing Voices Movement.
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Boban Dedovic – The Evolution of Mind Words in the Iliad and the Odyssey, March 20, 2021
Watch the interview with Brian J. McVeigh: “Evidence for the Bicameral Mind in the Old Testament” (Julian Jaynes Society Interview Series). Log in or Sign up. Watch the preview on YouTube.
We’ve dramatically expanded our global distribution for all Julian Jaynes Society Publications. Julian Jaynes Society books can now be ordered in many bookstores worldwide through their normal distribution channels.
We’ve released updated versions of all of our Kindle publications. To get the latest version, log in to your Amazon account, go to “Manage content and devices,” and look for the “Update available” link under the book title.
See JJS Publications here:
The softcover edition of El origen de la conciencia en la ruptura de la mente bicameral (the Spanish edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available in Spain and 8 other markets: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain & Portugal, United States, United Kingdom
Watch The Voices in Your Head: How God Became ‘I’ – An interview with Brian J. McVeigh on his latest book and Julian Jaynes’s theory.
The softcover edition of Der Ursprung des Bewußtseins durch den Zusammenbruch der Bikameralen Psyche (the German edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available in Germany and 8 other markets: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain & Portugal, United States, United Kingdom
The softcover edition of La naissance de la conscience dans l’effondrement de l’esprit bicaméral (the French edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available in France, Canada, and 7 other markets: Australia, Canada , France
Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain & Portugal, United States, United Kingdom
El origen de la conciencia en la ruptura de la mente bicameral (the Spanish edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available for Kindle on all Amazon sites worldwide.
Rare video of Julian Jaynes’s giving his lecture, “Consciousness and the Voices of the Mind,” posted in the Member Area, along with additional videos from the Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies. Log in or Sign up to view.
New book: The Psychology of the Bible: Explaining Divine Voices and Visions by Brian J. McVeigh.
In celebration of Julian Jaynes’s 100th birthday, we officially launched the completely redesigned Julian Jaynes Society website and Member Area. The new site has greatly improved functionality, features, security, a better user experience, new content, and is optimized for both computers and mobile devices. Special thanks to JJS member Boban Dedovic for volunteering his time and expertise to this project. Thank you also to the Julian Jaynes Society members — your ongoing support helped make this project possible!
Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind is now available in Korean.
Expanded to include a new, previously unpublished 30-page in-depth interview with Julian Jaynes, the softcover edition of The Julian Jaynes Collection is now available in the U.S. as well as 8 other markets: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain & Portugal, United Kingdom
The softcover edition of Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind is now available for direct purchase in the U.S., Canada, and 7 new overseas markets:
Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain & Portugal, United States, United Kingdom
The Julian Jaynes Collection Kindle Edition is now available on all Amazon sites worldwide.
The Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind Kindle Edition is now available on all Amazon sites worldwide.
New book: The ‘Other’ Psychology of Julian Jaynes: Ancient Languages, Sacred Visions, and Forgotten Mentalities by Brian J. McVeigh.
La naissance de la conscience dans l’effondrement de l’esprit bicaméral (the French edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available for Kindle on all Amazon sites worldwide.
The Why Factor: Why Do We Talk to Ourselves?
Includes discussion of Julian Jaynes’s theory with Julian Jaynes Society Executive Director Marcel Kuijsten.
Der Ursprung des Bewusstseins durch den Zusammenbruch der Bikameralen Psyche (the German edition of Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) is now available for Kindle on all Amazon sites worldwide.
The Bicameral Mind Explains What’s Next for “Westworld”
Interview with Executive Director Marcel Kuijsten on Julian Jaynes’s Theory and Westworld.
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind Audible version is now available.
Now available: The 2013 Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies Audio CD.
The Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness Kindle Edition is now available on all Amazon sites worldwide.
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind Kindle Edition is now available.
How old is consciousness? What is the relationship of consciousness and language? What is the origin of god beliefs and religion? Why do people hear voices that command their behavior? These are just a few of the fascinating questions posed by Princeton University psychologist Julian Jaynes’s influential and controversial theory and discussed in this book. A treasure trove of provocative ideas, Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind explains, extends, clarifies, and presents the latest evidence for Jaynes’s theory in a series of highly engaging interviews with both voice-hearers and leading thinkers on the theory.
Advanced Praise for Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind
“Julian Jaynes was my teacher in the early 1960s. … Much psychological science since then points to the possibility that he was right. Right about consciousness, right about ancient history, right about evolution, right about language, even right about Homer. This volume begins to close the gap, bringing Jaynes’s brilliance to the attention and appreciation of the contemporary public.”
— Martin Seligman, Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, and author of The Hope Circuit and Learned Optimism
“… A marvel of collective scholarship across multiple disciplines. … In this book, you will hear the voices of the most open-minded scholars of our generation.”
— William R. Woodward, Professor of Psychology, The University of New Hampshire, and author of Hermann Lotze: An Intellectual Biography
“Rich with ideas and fertile speculations, this outstanding collection of expert interviews advances the revolutionary work of the psychologist Julian Jaynes.”
— Richard Rhodes, Historian and Pulitzer Prize Laureate for The Making of the Atomic Bomb
“… It is time for a new generation of … deep thinkers at the heart of every discipline to rediscover Julian Jaynes’s tantalizing hypotheses concerning the origin and nature of human consciousness. This collection of interviews … will enable contemporary readers to understand why Jaynes’s style of inquiry remains as captivating and compelling as ever — and as provocative and controversial. Reader: take the plunge, and join the conversation!”
— Christian Y. Dupont, Ph.D., Associate University Librarian for Collections and Burns Librarian, Boston College, and author of Phenomenology in French Philosophy: Early Encounters
“… Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind helps us understand humanity’s development of consciousness over millennia, as well as how we learn it in our first years of life.”
— Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D., author of Habits of a Happy Brain, The Science of Positivity, and Status Games
Test your knowledge of Julian Jaynes’s theory by taking these three new quizzes:
Each quiz contains additional resources on the results page where one can go to learn more about the question topics.
Quizzes designed by Marcel Kuijsten and Brian J. McVeigh.
Posted June 10, 2020. Updated October 5, 2021.
Beginning in 1999, research began to emerge confirming Julian Jaynes’s neurological model for the bicameral mind: fMRI studies showing a right/left temporal lobe interaction during auditory verbal hallucinations.
Yet, more than twenty years later, there remains ongoing confusion on this subject (for example, a recent post on the “Star Slate Codex” blog was completely wrong on this issue). To help clear up this lingering confusion, I revisit this topic with an excerpt from one of my related newsletter articles, followed by quotes from related research, related video, further reading, and additional resources:
“Over three decades ago, Julian Jaynes introduced his theory of the origin of consciousness and a historically older mentality called the bicameral mind …
While the technology was not then available to test his ideas, Jaynes suggested a possible neurological model for the bicameral mind. Briefly stated, he reasoned that auditory hallucinations emanate from the areas of the right temporal lobe corresponding to the language areas in the left temporal lobe, and are subsequently processed (or “heard”) in the left temporal lobe language areas. Because of their external quality, the bicameral person experiencing auditory hallucinations interpreted them as the externally generated commands of a dead ancestor, chief, king, or god. To this day, those who experience auditory hallucinations often hear behavioral commands and experience them as being externally generated.
In my chapter in Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness, “Consciousness, Hallucinations, and the Bicameral Mind: Three Decades of New Research,” I discuss a number of neuroimaging studies that emerged over the past decade that provide support for Jaynes’s neurological model. These studies show brain activation in the right followed by the left temporal lobe at the onset of auditory hallucinations. Some researchers infer a possible interaction between these two areas — the language areas of the left hemisphere and the corresponding areas of the right hemisphere — during auditory hallucinations.
Since the publication of Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness, a number of new studies have been published that also show bilateral temporal lobe (‘bicameral’) activation during auditory hallucinations, providing further support for Jaynes’s neurological model specifically and his bicameral mind theory in general.
In 2007, French psychiatrist Renaud Jardri and his colleagues published a study in Molecular Psychiatry titled “Activation of Bilateral Auditory Cortex during Verbal Hallucinations in a Child with Schizophrenia.” They used functional MRI to study the “neural substrates of verbal auditory hallucinations in a child suffering from very early onset schizophrenia.” The analysis performed “shows bilateral activation of the superior temporal gyri” during auditory hallucinations (see the image above). This bilateral activation of the superior temporal gyri during auditory hallucinations is exactly what Jaynes predicted more than 30 years ago.
In an article published in 2007 in Schizophrenia Research, Dr. Iris E. C. Sommer and her colleagues in the Netherlands reported that “the majority of schizophrenia patients showed prominent activity in the right-sided homologues of the classical language areas during AVH [auditory verbal hallucinations] (i.e. in the right inferior frontal gyrus, right superior temporal and supramarginal gyrus), while normal language is generally produced in the left hemisphere in right-handed subjects.” Again, this corresponds precisely with Jaynes’s predictions.
In another study published in 2008, Sommer et al. measured cerebral activation using fMRI in 24 psychotic patients. They report that “group analysis for AVH revealed activation in the right homologue of Broca’s area, bilateral insula, bilateral supramarginal gyri and right superior temporal gyrus.” They go on to speculate that “the association between AVH and activity in right hemisphere language areas could explain the low linguistic complexity and derogatory content, characteristic for AVH in psychotic patients.”
In a 2008 article titled “Functional MRI of Verbal Self-Monitoring in Schizophrenia” published in Schizophrenia Bulletin, psychologist Veena Kumari and her colleagues in the United Kingdom conclude that positive schizophrenic symptoms (hallucinations and persecution) show “exaggerated activation in the right superior-middle temporal gyrus.”
Also noteworthy, Dr. Yair Lampl in the Department of Neurology at Tel Aviv University and his colleagues published an article in late 2005 that studied auditory hallucinations in stroke patients. According to Lampl, auditory hallucinations occur only rarely after a stroke. Of the 641 stroke patients in the study, only four experienced auditory hallucinations. Of interest to the present discussion, all of the cases of auditory hallucinations “occurred after an ischemic lesion of the right temporal lobe.”
These new studies provide additional evidence in support of Jaynes’s neurological model. They have been published in peer-reviewed journals by a variety of researchers working in different labs around the world. While their research is highly supportive of Jaynes’s neurological model, these scientists did not have the goal of providing evidence for Jaynes’s theory and in some cases may not even be aware of it. …”
Reprinted from Marcel Kuijsten, “New Evidence for Jaynes’s Neurological Model: A Research Update,” The Jaynesian, Volume 3, Issue 1. Read the full article.
Statements Supportive of Jaynes’s Neurological Model by Psychiatrists, Neurologists, and Neurosurgeons
“Neuroimaging techniques of today have illuminated and confirmed the importance of Jaynes’ hypothesis.”
— Robert Olin, M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus in Preventive Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, in Lancet, 1999, 20, 354, 9173.
“In 1976 Julian Jaynes proposed in his book … [that] the left hemisphere was the site for speech, and the right hemisphere was the site for hallucinations that expressed voices and commands of gods and demons. … Their results provided direct evidence of the involvement of primary auditory areas in auditory hallucinations. … Contemporary neuroimaging data have been used to revive and support … [Jaynes’s] controversial hypothesis.“
— Leo Sher, M.D., Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 2000, 25, 3, 239-40.
“… Scientific interest in [Jaynes’s] work has been re-awakened by the consistent findings of right-sided activation patterns in the brain, as retrieved with the aid of neuroimaging studies in individuals with verbal auditory hallucinations.”
— Jan Dirk Blom, M.D., in A Dictionary of Hallucinations (Springer, 2009).
“An interesting hypothesis is posed by Julian Jaynes on the “bicameral brain” (sic) where one hemisphere (right) gives orders and the other (left) listens and executes orders. … The latest studies have shown bilateral activation of Broca’s area instead of only left side activation that brings new life to the theory of mind bicameralism. The reduction of lateralization even correlated with the intensity of hallucinations.“
— D.M. Pavlović, M.D., A.M. Pavlović, M.D., and Maja Lačković, M.D., “The Neuropsychology of Hallucinations,” Archives of Biological Sciences, 2011, 63, 1, 43-48.
“Jaynes claims that remnants of the ancient bicameral brain (sic) organization can still be found in the verbal or auditory hallucinations associated with hypnosis and schizophrenia. This hypothesis is consistent with the findings from recent neuroimaging studies, which identified the right temporal lobe as the source of auditory hallucinations in patients with schizophrenia.“
— Andrea E. Cavanna and Andrea Nani, Consciousness: Theories in Neuroscience and Philosophy of Mind (Springer, 2014).
“The theory of a bicameral mind evolved the psychology and neuropsychiatric concepts of some disorders including the one for schizophrenia. … Jaynes’ theories were further confirmed by … other authors. … According to all these findings and theories, it is postulated that anterior corpus callosotomy would be beneficial in controlling the auditory and visual hallucinations in those with schizophrenia refractory to the highest medical therapy.“
— Mousa Taghipour, MD & Fariborz Ghaffarpasand, MD, “Corpus Callosotomy for Drug-Resistant Schizophrenia; Novel Treatment Based on Pathophysiology,” World Neurosurgery, August 2018, 116: 483-484.
Supportive Evidence from Peer-Reviewed Articles
The Neurology of Auditory Hallucinations: Evidence from Direct Stimulation, EEG, PET , & fMRI
Key Point: Numerous studies using a variety of techniques implicate the language areas of the non-dominant hemisphere in auditory verbal hallucinations.
“Electrical stimulation of the temporal lobe was performed in chronic schizophrenic patients to treat the auditory hallucinations. During electrical stimulation, there appeared different kinds of hallucinations. … In most of these cases, craniotomy of the non-dominant side was performed, and the exposed temporal lobe cortex was electrically stimulated directly.”
— Ishibashi, et al., “Hallucinations Produced by Electrical Stimulation of the Temporal Lobes in Schizophrenic Patients,” Journal of Experimental Medicine, 1964, 82, 124-139.
“Penfield reproduced such experiences by electrical stimulation of the temporal lobe cortex. We have found that similar hallucinatory experiences may arise from subcortical stimulation of the temporal lobe.”
— M. J. Horowitz and J. E. Adams, “Hallucinations on Brain Stimulation: Evidence for Revision of the Penfield Hypothesis,” in W. Keup (ed.), Origin and Mechanisms of Hallucinations (Springer, 1970).
“In reviewing our series of patients it was of interest to note that hallucinations were produced by electrical stimulation of the depth structures of the temporal lobe in certain patients.“
— Weingarten, et al. ,”The Relationship of Hallucinations to the Depth Structures of the Temporal Lobe,” Acta Neurochirurgica, 1977, Suppl. 24: “Advances in Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery 2”, 199-216.
“Metabolism in Broca’s region and its right-hemisphere homologue correlated positively and significantly in the hallucinating group, as it did in anterior cingulate and left superior temporal areas, and in right frontal and parietal areas.”
— Cleghorn, et al., “Regional Brain Metabolism During Auditory Hallucinations in Chronic Schizophrenia,” British Journal of Psychiatry, 1990, 157, 562-570.
“Left temporal lobe activity was found to be decreased with increasing positive symptom’s scores scores. … Patients with a recent history of auditory hallucinations showed an atypical right temporal lobe dominance, which occurred independently of medication status.”
— Gordon, et al., “Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) Measures of Brain Function in Schizophrenia,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 1994, 28, 446–452.
“A large and significant decrease in SSVEP latency in the right temporo/parietal region occurred in the second prior to the report of auditory hallucinations. … This finding suggests that activity of fine temporal resolution in the neural networks in the right temporo/parietal area may be implicated in the genesis of auditory hallucination. …”
— Line, et al., “Steady State Visually Evoked Potential Correlates of Auditory Hallucinations in Schizophrenia,” NeuroImage, 1998, 8, 4.
“Metabolism in Broca’s region and its right-hemisphere homologue correlated positively and significantly in the hallucinating group…”
— Cleghorn, et al., “Regional Brain Metabolism During Auditory Hallucinations in Chronic Schizophrenia,” The British Journal of Psychiatry, 1990, 157, 4, 562-570.
“Results showed that activation [during auditory hallucinations] first appeared in the right middle temporal gyrus and then extended to a wider area of the right superior temporal and left superior temporal gyri (where the hallucination is “heard”), right middle and inferior frontal gyri, right anterior cingulate, and right cuncus.”
—- Lennox, et al., “Spatial and Temporal Mapping of Neural Activity Associated with Auditory Hallucinations,” Lancet, 1999, 353, 644.
“The group of hallucinating patients demonstrated right medial and inferior frontal activations (BA 45/46), focal bilateral temporal lobe activations (BA 22, 37), and a left parahippocampal gyral activation.”
— Copolov, et al., “A PET Study of Brain Activation in Response to Auditory Hallucinations and External Speech in Schizophrenic Patients,” Biological Psychiatry, April 2000, 47, 8.
“Patients showed no differences while generating inner speech but experienced a relatively attenuated response in the posterior cerebellar cortex, hippocampi, and lenticular nuclei bilaterally and the right thalamus, middle and superior temporal cortex, and left nucleus accumbens during auditory verbal imagery.”
— Shergill, et al, “Functional Anatomy of Auditory Verbal Imagery in Schizophrenic Patients With Auditory Hallucinations,” American Journal of Psychiatry, October 2000, 157, 1691–1693.
“Auditory hallucinations were associated with activation in the … temporal cortex bilaterally (with greater responses on the right).“
— Shergill, et al, “Mapping Auditory Hallucinations in Schizophrenia Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging,” The Archives of General Psychiatry, November 2000, 57.
“Group analysis demonstrated shared areas of activation in right and left superior temporal gyri, left inferior parietal cortex and left middle frontal gyrus.“
— Lennox, et al., “The Functional Anatomy of Auditory Hallucinations in Schizophrenia,” Psychiatry Research, November 2000, 100, 1, 13–20.
“AVHs [auditory verbal hallucinations] were associated with increased metabolic activity in the left primary auditory cortex and the right middle temporal gyrus. Our results suggest a possible interaction between these areas during AVHs.”
— Bentaleb, et al., “Cerebral Activity Associated with Auditory Verbal Hallucinations: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Case Study,” Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, 2002, 27, 2, 110.
“Recent functional neuroimaging findings seem to confirm the hypothesis that the right middle temporal gyrus represents the source of auditory hallucinations in at least some schizophrenic patients. Arguably, this lateralization pattern could well be the reason why these inner voices lack the characteristic of being self-generated.“
— Cavanna et al. “The ‘Bicameral Mind’ 30 Years On,” Functional Neurology, 2007, 22, 1, 11-15.
“The majority of schizophrenia patients showed prominent activity in the right-sided homologues of the classical language areas during AVH [auditory verbal hallucinations] (i.e. in the right inferior frontal gyrus, right superior temporal gyrus and supramarginal gyrus), while normal language is generally produced in the left hemisphere in right-handed subjects.”
— Sommer, et al., “Can fMRI-guidance Improve the Efficacy of rTMS Treatment for Auditory Verbal Hallucinations?” Schizophrenia Research, 2007, 93, 1, 406–8.
“Group analysis for AVH revealed activation in the right homologue of Broca’s area, bilateral insula, bilateral supramarginal gyri and right superior temporal gyrus. … The association between AVH and activity in right hemisphere language areas could explain the low linguistic complexity and derogatory content, characteristic for AVH in psychotic patients.“
— Sommer, et al., “Auditory Verbal Hallucinations Predominantly Activate the Right Inferior Frontal Area,” Brain, 2008, 131, 3169-77.
“The regions (Broca’s homologue and the right insula) coincide with the areas that showed greatest activation during auditory verbal hallucinations in our analysis of 24 patients (Sommer et al., 2008). It could therefore be hypothesized that auditory verbal hallucinations result from ‘release’ language activity in the right inferior frontal area that is inhibited in the healthy brain.”
— Sommer & Diederen, “Language Production in the Non-Dominant Hemisphere as a Potential Source of Auditory Verbal Hallucinations,” Brain, 2009, 132, 10, e124.
“… Group analysis for AVH [auditory verbal hallucinations] revealed activation in the right homolog of Broca’s area, bilateral insula, bilateral supramarginal gyri, [and] right superior temporal gyrus.”
— Sommer, Iris & Kelly Diederen, “Auditory Verbal Hallucinations and Language Lateralization,” in Iris E.C. Sommer and René S. Kahn (eds.), Language Lateralization and Psychosis (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
“Patients experiencing AVHs demonstrated significantly increased activation likelihoods in a bilateral neural network, including the Broca’s area…”
— Jardri, et al., “Cortical Activations During Auditory Verbal Hallucinations in Schizophrenia: A Coordinate-Based Meta-Analysis,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2011, 168, 1, 73–81.
“Findings suggest that heightened functional coupling between the left inferior frontal gyrus and right temporal regions leads to coactivation in these speech processing regions that is hallucinogenic.”
—- Hoffman, et al., “Time Course of Regional Brain Activity Accompanying Auditory Verbal Hallucinations in Schizophrenia,” The British Journal of Psychiatry, 2011, 198, 4, 277–283.
“Auditory verbal hallucinations are a cardinal symptom of schizophrenia … The current results indicate that spatial location of auditory hallucinations is associated with the right temporoparietal junction (rTPJ) anatomy, a key region of the ‘where’ auditory pathway.”
— Plaze, et al., “Where Do Auditory Hallucinations Come From?” A Brain Morphometry Study of Schizophrenia Patients with Inner or Outer Space Hallucinations,” Schizophrenia Bulletin, January 2011, 37, 1, 212-21.
“Several common areas of activation were observed for the psychotic and nonpsychotic subjects during the experience of AVH, consisting of the bilateral inferior frontal gyri, insula, superior temporal gyri, supramarginal gyri and postcentral gyri, left precentral gyrus, inferior parietal lobule, superior temporal pole, and right cerebellum.”
— Diederen, et al., “Auditory Hallucinations Elicit Similar Brain Activation in Psychotic and Nonpsychotic Individuals,” Schizophrenia Bulletin, September 2012, 38, 5.
“AVH [auditory verbal hallucination]-related activity was … observed in Broca’s area and its right hemisphere homologue…”
— Zmigrod, et al., “The Neural Mechanisms of Hallucinations: A Quantitative Meta-Analysis of Neuroimaging Studies,” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2016, 69, 113-123.
“AVHs [auditory verbal hallucinations] were associated with activation in bilateral language and motor regions.“
— Ford, et al., “Neurobiology of Auditory Hallucinations,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, November 2019.
“The group with complex hallucinations showed elevated activity in the bilateral temporal cortex including Wernicke’s area…”
— Marschall, et al., “Spontaneous Brain Activity Underlying Auditory Hallucinations in the Hearing-Impaired,” Cortex, March 2021, 136, 1-13.
Language Lateralization and Psychosis
Key Point: Individuals that process language more evenly in both hemispheres (“less lateralized”) are more likely to experience auditory hallucinations.
“Delay in establishing dominance in one hemisphere could be the critical factor that predisposes to schizophrenia.”
— Crow, T.J., “Cerebral Lateralization is Delayed in Children who Later Develop Schizophrenia,” Schizophrenia Research, 1996, 22, 3, 181–185.
“These results show the strong association of the right middle temporal gyrus with the experience of auditory hallucination in this patient, supporting the hypothesis that auditory hallucinations reflect abnormal activation of auditory cortex. Language is more associated with the left hemisphere in normal subjects. This finding may therefore reflect the abnormal lateralisation of language function in schizophrenia.“
—- Lennox, et al., “Spatial and Temporal Mapping of Neural Activity Associated with Auditory Hallucinations,” Lancet, 1999, 353, 644.
“Twelve schizophrenic patients and twelve healthy controls were scanned while they were engaged in a verb-generation and a semantic decision task. … The results indicate that language processing is less lateralized in patients than in controls. … Analysis of variance of the extent of activity … revealed a significant hemisphere by group interaction … which was due to increased activation in the right hemisphere of the patients.“
— Sommer, et al., “Language Lateralization in Schizophrenia, An fMRI Study,” Schizophrenia Research, 2001, 52, 1-2, 57-67.
“Schizophrenia patients showed reduced language lateralization in the frontal cortex, because of a more bilateral activation of Broca’s area compared with a primarily left hemisphere activation in healthy controls.“
— Weiss, et al., “Language Lateralization in Unmedicated Patients During An Acute Episode of Schizophrenia: A functional MRI Study,” Psychiatry Research, March 2006, 31, 146.
“Both the overall auditory cortex and planum temporale volumes and the lateralization to the left hemisphere were markedly reduced in patients. The decrease of lateralization correlated with increased severity of symptoms.
— Oertel, et al., “Reduced Laterality as a Trait Marker of Schizophrenia—Evidence from Structural and Functional Neuroimaging,” The Journal of Neuroscience, February 2010, 30, 6, 2289–2299.
“Reduced cerebral lateralisation of language in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia has been documented in a substantial number of studies.“
— Allen and Modinos, “Structural Neuroimaging in Psychotic Patients with Auditory Verbal Hallucinations,” in Blom and Sommer (eds.), Hallucinations: Research and Practice (Springer, 2012).
“…[R]educed language lateralization is a weak trait marker for schizophrenia as such and a strong trait marker for the experience of auditory hallucinations within the schizophrenia population”
— Ocklenburg , et al. “Auditory Hallucinations and Reduced Language Lateralization in Schizophrenia: A Meta-Analysis of Dichotic Listening Studies,” Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, April 2013, 19, 4, 410-8.
“Patients with schizophrenia exhibited significantly decreased leftward hemispheric [language] lateralization.”
— Alary, et al., “Functional Hemispheric Lateralization for Language in Patients with Schizophrenia,” Schizophrenia Research, Sept. 2013, 149, 1-3, 42-7.
Right Hemisphere as “Alien Intruder”/Sensed Presence/Externally Perceived Voice
Key Point: The origin of auditory hallucinations in the non-dominant hemisphere may be what gives them their “external” quality.
“In schizophrenia, defective interhemispheric integration, probably neurochemical, may lead to disinhibition of the awareness by the left hemisphere that it is being “influenced” by an unknown “external force” which is fact the right hemisphere.”
— Nasrallah, Henry A., “The Unintegrated Right Cerebral Hemispheric Consciousness as Alien Intruder: A Possible Mechanism for Schneiderian Delusions in Schizophrenia?” Comprehensive Psychiatry, 1985, 26, 3, 273–282.
“The hypothesis of vectorial hemisphericity predicts that left hemispheric intrusions of the right hemispheric equivalent of the sense of self should be associated with the experience of a “presence” of someone else. The neurophenomenological profile of a woman whose medical history satisfied these theoretical criteria … is presented. ”
— Persinger, et al., “The Sensed Presence as Right Hemispheric Intrusions into the Left Hemispheric Awareness of Self: An Illustrative Case Study,” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1994, 78, 3.
“We report evidence of isolated conceptual knowledge in the right hemisphere of a woman with chronic anarchic hand sign after ischemic infarction of the central four-fifths of the corpus callosum.”
— Baynes, et al., “Isolation of a Right Hemisphere Cognitive System in a Patient with Anarchic (Alien) Hand Sign,” Neuropsychologia, 1997, 35, 8.
“The second component is alienation, which is the failure to recognize the content of AVH as self-generated. This failure may be related to the fact that cerebral activity associated with AVH is predominantly present in the speech production area of the right hemisphere.”
— Sommer, et al., “Dissecting Auditory Verbal Hallucinations into Two Components: Audibility (Gedankenlautwerden) and Alienation (Thought Insertion),” Psychopathology, 2010, 43, 137–140.
“[A] lack of synchronization between Broca and its homolog may lead to the erroneous interpretation of emotional speech activity from the right hemisphere as coming from an external source.”
— Ćurčić-Blake, et al., “When Broca Goes Uninformed: Reduced Information Flow to Broca’s Area in Schizophrenia Patients With Auditory Hallucinations,” Schizophrenia Bulletin, September 2013, 39, 5.
Alien hand syndrome after corpus callosotomy reveals its underlying mechanism. 3 out of a series of 18 patients demonstrated ALS after callosotomy. Distinct features were bihemispheric language dominance and genuine left-handedness. Both hemispheres come with capacities for independent action. Loss of contralateral inhibition appears a major mechanism underlying ALS.
— Helmstaedter, et al., “Dr. Strangelove Demystified: Disconnection of Hand and Language Dominance Explains Alien-Hand Syndrome after Corpus Callosotomy,” Seizure, 2021, 86.
Auditory and Visual Hallucinations and Temporal Lobe Epilepsy
Key Point: Patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (abnormal brain activity in the temporal lobes) also occasionally experience both auditory and visual hallucinations.
See Section 2, “Auditory Hallucinations in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy” (Case Reports)
— Shafica Karagulla, “Psychical Phenomena in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and The Psychoses,” British Medical Journal, March 1955, 1, 4916, 748–752.
“A case report is presented to illustrate problems in managing the schizophrenia-like psychosis of temporal lobe epilepsy.”
— Sidney Bloch, “Problems of Treatment in the Schizophrenia-Like Psychosis of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy-A Case Report,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 1968, 2.
“One of them — a 32-year-old female with a right temporo-occipital focus — had a seizure pattern which included a vision of Christ coming down from the sky.”
— Dewhurt and Beard, “Sudden Religious Conversions in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy,” British Journal of Psychiatry, 1970, 117, 540, 497-507.
“Hallucinations are infrequently seen in prepubertal children. … We here report the case of a child who presented with psychosis and nocturnal hallucinations and for whom temporal epilepsy was eventually diagnosed and successfully treated.”
— Kechid, et al., “Hearing Hallucinations in a 12-Year-Old Child: Psychotic Disorders or Temporal Epilepsy?”, The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2008, 10, 4, 328–329.
“MEG revealed interictal epileptic discharges within the anterior partition of the right superior temporal gyrus; signal-to-noise ratio of these discharges was overall poor in EEG. The findings suggest that auditory vocal hallucinations without verbal content can evolve in the right hemisphere and are probably independent of language lateralization.“
— Hug, et al., “Voices Behind the Left Shoulder: Two Patients with Right-Sided Temporal Lobe Epilepsy,” Journal of the Neurological Sciences, June 2011, 305, 1–2.
“The psychoses of epilepsy are well recognized complications of seizure disorders, diagnosed easily from the history. However, in the absence of recognized seizures, the diagnosis can be challenging.”
— Edward Needham, “Temporal Lobe Epilepsy Masquerading As Psychosis – A Case Report and Literature Review,” Neurocase: The Neural Basis of Cognition, 2012, 18, 5.
“Hearing voices (i.e. auditory verbal hallucinations) is mainly known as part of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. However, hearing voices is a symptom that can occur in many psychiatric, neurological and general medical conditions. … The third patient is a 27-year-old woman with voices caused by temporal lobe epilepsy.“
— I.E. Sommer and D.W. van der Spek, “Hearing Voices Does Not Always Constitute A Psychosis,” Nederlands Tijdschrift Voor Geneeskunde, 2016, 160, D492.
“The purpose of this case report is to document a patient with cinematographic hallucinations, with corresponding right temporal lobe seizures on electroencephalogram (EEG).“
— Nelson, et al., “A Unique Patient with Epilepsy with Cinematographic Visual Hallucinations,” Epilepsy & Behavior Case Reports, 2016, 5, 78-79.
“Psychiatric disorders are very common in epilepsy. … Here, we report a case of a young female who was suffering from complex partial seizure with secondary generalization and who subsequently developed schizophrenic symptoms. … the patient who had a right-sided lesion developed schizophrenic symptoms.”
— B. Sweetha, “A Case of Untreated Mesial Temporal Sclerosis in Right Hemisphere Presenting As Schizophrenia,” University Journal of Medicine and Medical Specialities, 2019.
Further Evidence from Split-Brain Experiments
Psychological experiments conducted with “split-brain” patients, who have had their corpus callosum severed (the primary connection between the two brain hemispheres), provide further evidence for Jaynes’s neurological model. These experiments suggest that the two hemispheres can in some ways operate independently, express different preferences, that one’s sense of self is associated with the language-dominant hemisphere, and that the actions of the right hemisphere can often feel “alien” to the person (with the right hand holding a newspaper to read and the left hand knocking it away, for example). See Elizabeth Schechter, Self-Consciousness and “Split” Brains: The Minds’ I (Oxford University Press, 2018) for a recent, extensive discussion of this fascinating research.
Iris Sommer: Investigating Voices
Describes the experience and neurology of auditory hallucinations and shows the accuracy of Julian Jaynes’s neurological model.
2-Minute Neuroscience: Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)
Explains the basics of fMRI as well as some of its limitations.
Julian Jaynes, “The Double Brain,” in J. Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Houghton Mifflin, 1976/1990), Ch. I.5.
Marcel Kuijsten, “Consciousness, Hallucinations, and the Bicameral Mind: Three Decades of New Research,” in M. Kuijsten (ed.), Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness (Julian Jaynes Society, 2006).
Robert Olin, “Auditory Hallucinations and the Bicameral Mind,” Lancet, 1999, 354, 166.
Leo Sher, “Neuroimaging, Auditory Hallucinations, and The Bicameral Mind,” Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 2000, 25, 3, 239-40.
Elizabeth Schechter, Self-Consciousness and “Split” Brains: The Minds’ I (Oxford University Press, 2018).
Iris Sommer and Rene S. Kahn (eds.), Language Lateralization and Psychosis (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
Mousa Taghipour and Fariborz Ghaffarpasand, “Corpus Callosotomy for Drug-Resistant Schizophrenia; Novel Treatment Based on Pathophysiology,” World Neurosurgery, August 2018,116, 483-484.
Brain fMRI image reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Jardri, et al, “Activation of Bilateral Auditory Cortex during Verbal Hallucinations in a Child with Schizophrenia,” Molecular Psychiatry, 12, 319, Copyright 2007.
by Todd Gibson
In The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes has painted a vivid picture of the collapse of archaic mentality in the Near East and in Ancient Greece, showing how what we in the modern world call “religion” underwent a major transformation. Previous to about the first millennium B.C., he says, humanity was not “conscious,” by which he means people did not have the capacity for introspection, of narratizing about past and future based on a concept of an internal self-existing in a metaphorical “inner space.” Instead, they were guided in unfamiliar situations by the dictates of “gods,” who were hallucinated voices (and sometimes visions) that had evolved as a side effect of language. These voices functioned as repositories of the accumulated wisdom of their societies, but were not cognized as being part of an individual’s psychological makeup; as such a notion was impossible for a pre-conscious mentality. Because these voices seem to have been localized in predominantly one hemisphere of the brain, Jaynes calls this early mentality “bicameral.”
Jaynes argues that in both the Near East and Greece, a series of historical catastrophes led to a situation in which the counsel and guidance of the ancestral voices suddenly became inadequate for the conditions prevailing in those parts of the world. The voices came to be heard by fewer and fewer people, while their pronouncements became more and more erratic. Eventually, as direct contact with the divine voices disappeared altogether, civilizations came to rely on recorded pronouncements of the gods (as is the case with the great religions of the West), or else resorted to techniques such as divination or astrology in attempts to discover the hidden patterns of nature and the cosmos.
Jaynes’s perspective on the history of religion in antiquity is both novel and persuasive, but it is for the most part largely dependent on data derived from the two cultural spheres mentioned above, which after all make up only a small (if disproportionately influential) part of world history. Since the belief that people in all cultures are fundamentally the same seems to be a commonplace of modern Western society, one might assume that all peoples of the world probably traveled a similar road to consciousness; a more detailed examination of the theory in relation to other cultural spheres might test this proposition. The focus of this essay will be on one Indic religion which originated during the period of history crucial to Jaynes’s theory.
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