science

Hypnosis alters how you process information, study finds 


How hypnosis changes your BRAIN: Getting put under alters how you process information and causes neural regions to act independently of each other, study finds

  • Researchers examined the brain of one person in and out of a hypnotic state
  • They identified changes to the structure of the brain while under hypnosis
  • This included regions of the brain acting more independently than when awake 

Undergoing hypnosis changes the brain, altering the way it processes information and causes neural regions to act independently of each other, study shows.

Researchers from the University of Turku studied the brain of one person who had been ‘extensively studied’ and was known to be highly responsive to hypnosis.

The team discovered that the way our brain processes information is fundamentally altered during hypnosis when compared to a natural ‘waking state’.   

During a normal waking state, information is processed and shared by various parts within our brain to enable flexible responses to external stimuli, they explained. 

However, during hypnosis the brain shifted to a state where individual brain regions acted more independently of each other, the Finish team discovered. 

Undergoing hypnosis changes the brain, altering the way it processes information and causes neural regions to act independently of each other, study shows. Stock image

Undergoing hypnosis changes the brain, altering the way it processes information and causes neural regions to act independently of each other, study shows. Stock image

HYPNOSIS: MAKING PEOPLE SUSCEPTIBLE TO SUGGESTION

Hypnosis is a human condition that requires peripheral awareness to be reduced and capacity to respond to suggestion increased. 

Hypnosis has been used for pain management and has been shown to decrease acute pain

It is also regularly used to help people stop smoking, drinking or other addictions.

New studies show regions of the brain under hypnosis act more individually than during a waking state.

The team decided to focus on a single individual as they already had a deep understanding of their brain through previous, extensive study. 

The subject was a 51-year-old female office worker with no history of neurological illness, who had participated in multiple previous studies. 

The woman made for a good test subject as she is able to experience a vast variety of hypnotic cognitive phenomena including vivid auditory and visual hallucinations, both positive and negative. 

‘These phenomena can also be induced post-hypnotically,’ the team explained.

The study was conducted by tracking how a magnetically-induced electrical current spread throughout the brain during hypnosis and normal waking state. 

This method has been previously used to measure system-level changes in the brain in various states of consciousness, such as anaesthesia, 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, alternatively either hypnotised or in a normal waking state. 

Hypnosis was induced via a single-word cue, and the different conditions were identical in every other respect.

‘This allowed us to control the possible effects of the experimental setup or other factors, such as alertness,’ Tuominen explained.    

The finding show that the brain may function quite differently during hypnosis when compared to a normal waking state. 

This is interesting because the extent to which hypnosis modifies neural processing has been hotly debated in the field, the authors explained.    

Researchers from the University of Turku studied the brain of one person who had been 'extensively studied' and was known to be highly responsive to hypnosis. Stock image

Researchers from the University of Turku studied the brain of one person who had been ‘extensively studied’ and was known to be highly responsive to hypnosis. Stock image

‘We propose that the observed change in brain state under hypnosis may be characterised by a shift from the metastable state of normal wakeful consciousness towards more segregated connectivity.’

‘These findings cannot be generalised before a replication has been conducted on a larger sample of participants,’ said study author Jarno Tuominen.

However, he said they were able to demonstrate ‘what kind of changes happen in the neural activity of a person who reacts to hypnosis particularly strongly.’ 

The study was published in the journal Neuroscience of Consciousness.





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