Alice-in-Wonderland syndrome

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Dysmetropsia (also known as Alice in Wonderland syndrome, or lilliputian hallucinations) is a disorienting neurological condition that affects human perception. People experience micropsia, macropsia, pelopsia, teleopsia, or size distortion of other sensory modalities. It is often associated with migraines, brain tumors, and the use of psychoactive drugs. It appears that dysmetropsia is also a common experience at sleep onset, and has been known to commonly arise due to a lack of sleep. Dysmetropsia can be caused by abnormal amounts of electrical activity causing abnormal blood flow in the parts of the brain that process visual perception and texture. This syndrome, named in 1955 by British psychiatrist John Todd, has long been known to co-occur with some migraines. A new case study, however, reveals that headaches aren’t the only cause of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.

The patient in the study, a 26-year-old man, came to psychiatrists with a history of using alcohol, marijuana and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide, a psychedelic drug). During LSD trips, the man said, he’d frequently perceive objects and people all out of proportion. Things might look too big, too small, or farther or closer than they really were. These perceptual distortions are the hallmark of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, so dubbed because Alice experiences some very similar symptoms during her journey through Wonderland in Lewis Carroll’s tale.

Whatever the cause, the bodily related distortions can recur several times a day and may take some time to abate. Understandably, the person can become alarmed, frightened, and panic-stricken throughout the course of the hallucinations – maybe even hurt themselves or others around them. The symptoms of the syndrome themselves are not harmful and are likely to disappear with time.

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