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Hypnosis Shows Up In Brain Scans

November 16, 2009

Hypnosis has a “very real” consequence that can be detected on brain scans, University of Hull researchers recently announced.

An imaging investigation of hypnotized volunteers indicated less activity in the areas of the brain connected to distraction.

Similar patterns were absent in those who were scanned and not disposed to being hypnotized. A psychologist questioned by BBC feels the study backs the theory that hypnosis “primes” the brain to be susceptible to propositions.

Hypnosis has been used to, among other things, help people quit smoking. According to BBC, it was also lately suggested to combat irritable bowel syndrome.

Although it was not the first time the brain was scanned when under hypnosis, the Hull team said this was the first time it was done and the person was asked to perform tasks.

In the newest study, the team tested how individuals reacted to hypnosis and chose 10 people who were “highly suggestible” and seven people who were not.

The participants were inquired to execute a task under hypnosis, and the brain activity was recorded in the rest periods, the team wrote in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

In the “highly suggestible” participants there was less action in the daydreaming part of the brain, or the “default mode” network.

One proposal of how hypnosis works, backed up by the results, is that stopping mental activity allows the brain to focus on other tasks.

Study manager Dr William McGeown, psychology professor, found that the results were unambiguous because it only happened in the highly susceptible individuals.

“This shows that the changes were due to hypnosis and not just simple relaxation. Our study shows hypnosis is real.”

Dr Michael Heap, a clinical forensic psychologist, said the research was distinctive because they supported the hypothesis that hypnosis works by “priming” the individual to answer more successfully to suggestions.

“Importantly the data confirm that relaxation is not a critical factor.

“The limited data from this experiment suggest that this pattern of activity then dissipates (at least to some extent) once the subjects start to engage in the suggestions that follow.”

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