Case Study: My Experience With Hypnosis

The Science Behind Hypnosis Time and again, we hear the question, what is hypnosis really and is it even real? A brain signature of being hypnotized was first viewed in 2012 with the use of functional MRI (fMRI), a type of MRI that shows brain activity on connection with blood flow changes. Parts of the … Continue reading “Case Study: My Experience With Hypnosis”

The Science Behind Hypnosis Time and again, we hear the question, what is hypnosis really and is it even real? A brain signature of being hypnotized was first viewed in 2012 with the use of functional MRI (fMRI), a type of MRI that shows brain activity on connection with blood flow changes. Parts of the brain connected with executive control and attention were proven to have a role. More specifically, hypnotized subjects showed more co-activation between components of the executive-control network (handles basic cognitive processes) and the salience network (decides which stimuli deserve attention). In their brains, these two networks reacted together. Those who were not hypnotized did not exhibit this connectivity. What placed these experiments in a higher league is that researchers used fMRI to know which areas of brain were activated when the subjects were analyzing colors. The color sections in both left and right hemispheres were stimulated when the subjects were made to perceive colors. The scientists concluded that hypnosis is indeed an independent psychological state and surely not the outcome of adopting a role.
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Another fascinating observation from these studies were the hemispheric changes between non-hypnotized and hypnotized brain. When non-hypnotized subjects were told to point out colors in a black-and-white image, only the right hemisphere responded. The left hemisphere, which deals with reason and logic, only responded under hypnosis.
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Another experiment used positron-emission tomography (PET) to examine cerebral blood flow in hypnosis. The hypnotic state was in relation to activation of many mostly left-sided cortical regions, plus a few right-sided areas. The trend of activation shared a lot of similarities with mental imagery, from which it showed differences by the relative deactivation of the precuneus (handles visuo-spatial imagery, episodic memory retrieval and self-processing operations of the brain). The trend of activation had plenty of similarities with mental imagery, from which it proved different by the relative deactivation of the precuneus, the part of the brain that takes care of the brain’s visuo-spatial imagery, episodic memory retrieval and self-processing operations. For some scholars, hypnotized subjects activate to a considerable extent the brain parts that are used in imagination, but without causing real perceptual changes. Another functional MRI study displayed minimized activity in both anterior cingulate cortex (affects emotions, memory and learning) and visual areas during hypnosis. The findings hints that hypnosis impacts cognitive control by regulating activity in particular brain areas, including early visual modules. In multiple studies, hypnotizable subjects exhibited substantially more brain activity in the emotion and behavior-affecting anterior cingulate gyrus, as compared to participants who are non-hypnotized. The anterior cingulate gyrus responds to mistakes and gauges emotional outcomes. Prefrontal cortex is connected with higher level cognitive processing and behavior. Comparison of findings from various studies also show rather contradictory outcomes. Many sections of the brain seem to be activated in different studies. This can be related to various experimental techniques, both in terms of hypnotic approach and equipment used for the studies.

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