After chatting with John (my supervisor) briefly this evening, we've come up with a couple of potentially interesting questions to try to investigate, or at least to use to try to direct my research more specifically:
Firstly, it is accepted that at least some hallucinogenic symptoms of schizophrenia "arise from pathological activation of neurocircuitry involved with ... perception" due to corticocortical (inter-cortical) connectivity disruption (Hoffman and McGlashan, "Neural Network Models of Schizophreia", 2009). Are these hallucinations related to (and could they arise from) the same low-level mechanisms as those which cause the hallucinations and altered personality in mid-to-late Alzheimer's disease, or in drug-induced hallucinations, e.g. following LSD ingestion?
In other words, is it possible to create one universal low-level model for all types of hallucination and prove that all hallucinations, regardless of high-level disease/drug causes, arise from the same low-level activations of perceptive neurocircuitry?
Secondly what, if any, differences there are there between dreaming in normal brains and dreaming in those with AD or schizophrenia? Have there been any studies comparing AD/schizophrenia dreaming with normal dreaming? What significances do any differences have, if there are any? This could start off quite a large body of research if interesting differences are found.
In fact, there's a third question.. according to my Good Brain, Bad Brain neuroscience module, Down's Syndrome sufferers tend to develop AD at a much earlier age (sometimes in their 30's) -- what structural differences in the brain can cause this? Are these pointers to whatever structure it is that breaks down at the onset of AD?
But for now, I'm still just practising implementing some different types of neural networks, so such thinking can wait til later :)