How Hypnosis Changes Your BRAIN: Being in hiding changes the way you process information and allows neural regions to work independently, research shows.
- Researchers examined one person’s brain in and out of a hypnotic state
- They identified changes in brain structure while under hypnosis
- This included parts of the brain that worked more independently than when awake
Undergoing hypnosis changes the brain, changes the way it processes information, and makes neural regions work independently, research shows.
Researchers at the University of Turku studied the brain of a person who had been “extensively studied” and was known to respond very well to hypnosis.
The team found that the way our brains process information fundamentally changes during hypnosis compared to a natural ‘waking state’.
During a normal waking state, information is processed and shared by different parts of our brain to enable flexible responses to external stimuli, they explained.
However, during hypnosis, the brain shifted to a state where individual brain regions worked more independently of each other, the Finnish team found.
Undergoing hypnosis changes the brain, changes the way it processes information, and makes neural regions work independently, research shows. Stock image
HYPNOSIS: MAKING PEOPLE SENSITIVE TO SUGGESTIONS
Hypnosis is a human condition in which peripheral consciousness must be reduced and the ability to respond to suggestion increased.
Hypnosis has been used for pain management and has been shown to reduce acute pain
It is also regularly used to help people quit smoking, drinking or other addictions.
New studies show that areas of the brain work more individually under hypnosis than when they are awake.
The team decided to focus on one person, as they already had a deep understanding of their brains from previous, extensive study.
The subject was a 51-year-old female office worker with no history of neurological disease who had participated in multiple previous studies.
The woman was a good subject because she is able to experience a wide variety of hypnotic cognitive phenomena, including vivid auditory and visual hallucinations, both positive and negative.
“These phenomena can also be caused post-hypnotically,” the team explained.
The study was conducted by examining how a magnetically induced electric current spread through the brain during hypnosis and normal waking.
This method has previously been used to measure system-level changes in the brain in various states of consciousness, such as anesthesia, coma, and sleep.
This is the first time such a method has been used to assess hypnosis.
During the study, the participant sat still with eyes closed, either hypnotized or in a normal waking state.
Hypnosis was induced via a one-word signal and the different conditions were identical in every other way.
‘This allowed us to control the possible effects of the experimental setup or other factors, such as alertness,’ explains Tuominen.
The finding shows that the brain can function very differently during hypnosis compared to a normal waking state.
This is interesting because the extent to which hypnosis alters neural processing has been hotly debated in the field, the authors explained.
Researchers at the University of Turku studied the brain of a person who had been “extensively studied” and was known to respond very well to hypnosis. Stock image
“We propose that the observed change in brain state under hypnosis may be characterized by a shift of the metastable state from normal waking consciousness to more segregated connectivity.”
“These findings cannot be generalized until replication is performed on a larger sample of participants,” said study author Jarno Tuominen.
However, he said they could show “what kinds of changes happen in the neural activity of a person who is particularly responsive to hypnosis.”
The study has been published in the journal Neuroscience of Consciousness