Researchers at Cardiff University and the University of Oxford have received funding for projects investigating the visual hallucinatory condition Charles Bonnet syndrome.

Fight for Sight, Blind Veterans UK, Esme’s Umbrella and Health and Care Research Wales have funded the two projects to investigate the cause of the visual hallucinations.

The team at Cardiff University has developed a method to induce controlled hallucinations and will use fully sighted people to investigate that peripheral vision is more suggestible than central vision.

University of Oxford researchers will use MRI scans to compare the brains of people with and without Charles Bonnet syndrome and measure the levels of chemicals in the visual areas of the brain.

Sherine Krause, chief executive of Fight for Sight, said: ‘With a better understanding of the causes of Charles Bonnet syndrome, we will be one step closer to developing a treatment and eventually a cure for the condition.’

Fight for Sight shared Dr Amit Patel’s experience of visual hallucinations after he lost his sight unexpectedly in 2013.

The trauma doctor said he had limited knowledge of Charles Bonnet syndrome before he experienced it, having only come across it briefly during his medical school studies.

Dr Patel said: ‘One day, not long after I lost my sight, I was walking down the stairs in my house and this girl suddenly appeared in front of me. I realised it was the girl from the horror movie The Ring. The hallucination only lasted a few seconds, but it was enough for me to fall down the stairs.

‘At that point, I wasn’t really comfortable talking to people about what I was going through in losing my sight and I was very much in my head and in a bad place, so I put it down to that. After a few weeks though this same girl kept appearing and that’s when I knew I was having visual hallucinations and I thought that it may be Charles Bonnet syndrome.’

He added that the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in more hallucinations, especially in the early days and weeks of lockdown.

Campaign group Esme’s Umbrella said its helpline for people living with the condition has received double the number of calls over the past five months, with people reporting that stress and isolation has exacerbated the experience.