Study Identifies Brain
Areas Altered During Hypnotic Trance
Stanford.edu, by Sarah C.P. Williams
By scanning the brains of subjects while they were hypnotized, researchers
were able to see the neural changes associated with hypnosis.
Your eyelids are getting heavy, your
arms are going limp and you feel like you're floating through space. The
power of hypnosis to alter your mind and body like this is all thanks to
changes in a few specific areas of the brain, researchers at the Stanford
University School of Medicine have discovered.
The scientists scanned the brains of 57 people during guided hypnosis
sessions similar to those that might be used clinically to treat anxiety,
pain or trauma. Distinct sections of the brain have altered activity and
connectivity while someone is hypnotized, they report in a study that
will be published online July 28 in Cerebral Cortex.
...David Spiegel's team also observed reduced connections
between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the default mode network,
which includes the medial prefrontal and the posterior cingulate cortex.
This decrease in functional connectivity likely represents a disconnect
between someone's actions and their awareness of their actions, Spiegel
said. "When you're really engaged in something, you don't really think about
doing it -- you just do it," he said. During hypnosis, this kind of
disassociation between action and reflection allows the person to engage in
activities either suggested by a clinician or self-suggested without
devoting mental resources to being self-conscious about the activity.
Research Supports the
Hypnosis Can Transform Perception
Stanford Report, by Mitch Leslie, September 6, 2000
Hypnosis can change how we see the world, a new Stanford study has revealed.
By using PET scans to monitor neural activity, researchers demonstrated that
the brain processes visual input differently under hypnosis allowing
subjects to "see" color when they are actually staring at a black-and-white
image. By bolstering the idea that hypnosis transforms perception, the study
supports the use of the technique to improve athletic and intellectual
performance and even to "think away" pain.
The question of how to interpret hypnosis divides psychiatrists into two
camps, said David Spiegel, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral
sciences and senior author on the study. He and many other psychiatrists
regard hypnosis as a genuine mental state, in which our perception of
reality changes and our mind like a telephoto lens zooms in on a