My PhD project examines the brain mechanisms underlying first rank symptoms of schizophrenia by investigating the experiences of spiritualist mediums who report hearing the voices of spirits, having thoughts inserted into their head by spirits, or having their movements controlled by spirits. These alterations in experience bear a striking resemblance to “ego alien first rank symptoms”, including auditory verbal hallucinations, thought insertion, and delusions of control in clinical populations. This research recognises that individuals can have altered-self experience which can resemble psychosis but is positively valued rather than distressing.
My research investigates covert brain processes during altered-self experience in mediums and patients with schizophrenia, through the use of neuroimaging techniques, including EEG and fMRI. Qualitative interviews are utilised to explore the phenomenology of the experience during brain imaging. Additionally, hypnotic suggestion is used to examine dissociative tendencies in mediums.
Prior to undertaking my PhD in the Cultural and Social Neuroscience (CSN) Group, I worked as a researcher at King’s College London in the National Addiction Centre, having first graduated with an MSc in Clinical Mental Health Sciences from University College London (UCL). My Master’s thesis explored the cognitive neuropsychiatric and brain-lesion theories underpinning the Capgras delusion, a delusional misidentification syndrome. During this time, I undertook a number of clinical placements, including Early Intervention for Psychosis.
I chose the DTP for its translational focus and the diversity of opportunities for training, development, and future prospects. It afforded a natural progression from my MSc and I valued the opportunity to learn from a range of individuals in varying disciplines and consequent innovative approaches to research.
Identifying EEG and fMRI biomarkers and mechanisms underlying pathological & non-pathological first rank symptoms in healthy voice hearers and patients with schizophrenia.
Blackwood, R., Wolstenholme, A., Kimergård, A., … Currell, E. A., … Drummond, C. (2020). Assertive outreach treatment versus care as usual for the treatment of high-need, high-cost alcohol related frequent attenders: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. BMC Public Health, 20(332). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-8437-y
Currell, E. A., Werbeloff, N., Hayes, J. F., & Bell, V. (2019). Cognitive neuropsychiatric analysis of an additional large Capgras delusion case series. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 24(2), 123-134. https://doi.org/10.1080/13546805.2019.1584098
Currell, E. & Bell, V. (2018, November). This Week in Science (interviewed by Shayla Love for VICE). https://www.vice.com/en/article/mbyv43/this-is-why-losing-your-vision-can-cause-hallucinations
Boniface, S., & Currell, E. (2018, October). Measuring Up, Hooked Exhibition. Interactive seminars presented at the Science Gallery London. https://london.sciencegallery.com/hooked
Solly, A., & Currell, E. (2018, Feb). Understanding Psychosis, Psychological Perspectives. Facilitation and Development of an NHS Staff Training Programme (British Psychological Society, BPS). [West London Mental Health Team, Commissioned by the NHS]. https://www.bps.org.uk/what-psychology/understanding-psychosis-and-schizophrenia
BMJ Awards: Mental Health Team of the Year, 2019
- British Medical Journal
- Awarded to: Alcohol Assertive Outreach Team, SLaM/King’s College London
King’s Experience Award, 2019
- King’s College London