Distinct areas of the brain show altered activity and connectivity when people are under hypnosis, according to a study done by scientists at the Stanford School of Medicine.

Scientists studied the brains of 57 people while they were hypnotized in sessions similar to those they would have were they being treated for anxiety, pain or trauma. 

‘Hypnosis is the oldest Western form of psychotherapy, but it’s been tarred with the brush of dangling watches and purple capes,’ according to David Spiegel, MD, professor and associate chair of psychiatry and behavioural sciences. ‘In fact, it’s a very powerful means of changing the way we use our minds to control perception and our bodies.’

The research identified three aspects of brain activity impacted by those by hypnosis. One is decreased activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate. People in hypnosis are so distracted that they don’t worry about anything else. 

Another impact is increased connectivity between two areas of the brain that Spiegal describes as a brain-body connection that helps the brain process and control what’s going on in the body.

The third thing noticed reflected a disconnect between someone’s actions and their awareness of these actions. During hypnosis, this would allow the person being hypnotised to be active in things suggested by the hypnotherapist or self-suggested without devoting mental resources to being self-conscious about the activity.

Such is the beneficial aspect of hypnosis that scientists could use the results of this study to develop a treatment that combines hypnosis with brain stimulation to help people who aren’t naturally susceptible to hypnosis. 

To read the full article, which was reported on-line in Cerebral Cortex, click here:



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