Monday, July 26, 2010

MRI evidence on how hypnosis works.

I just came across a paper by Cojan et al. on brain activity under hypnosis. While undergoing functional MRI, participants were instructed to prepare to move their hand. After a few seconds they were told whether or not to actually perform the movement. Some of the time, they were hypnotized and believed that their hand was paralyzed. Interestingly, when the volunteers were under hypnosis, the preparatory activity in motor cortex was normal; but there was increased activity in other regions related to attention, mental imagery and self-awareness. Moreover, the connectivity between these regions and motor cortex was enhanced, indicating that hypnosis doesn’t work by directly controlling motor activity, but rather through the effects of internal representations and self-monitoring processes on such activity. Here is the authors' summary of the work:
Brain mechanisms of hypnosis are poorly known. Cognitive accounts proposed that executive attentional systems may cause selective inhibition or disconnection of some mental operations. To assess motor and inhibitory brain circuits during hypnotic paralysis, we designed a go-nogo task while volunteers underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in three conditions: normal state, hypnotic left-hand paralysis, and feigned paralysis. Preparatory activation arose in right motor cortex despite left hypnotic paralysis, indicating preserved motor intentions, but with concomitant increases in precuneus regions that normally mediate imagery and self-awareness. Precuneus also showed enhanced functional connectivity with right motor cortex. Right frontal areas subserving inhibition were activated by nogo trials in normal state and by feigned paralysis, but irrespective of motor blockade or execution during hypnosis. These results suggest that hypnosis may enhance self-monitoring processes to allow internal representations generated by the suggestion to guide behavior but does not act through direct motor inhibition.

7 comments:

  1. Daniel Gackle12:02 PM

    This is interesting because it seems to take for granted that the difference between hypnotic and non-hypnotic states *has* been empirically established. That's news to me. Are you aware of what findings this is based on?

    From personal experience, I'm pretty sure there is such a difference. But the question has been controversial for a long time.

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  2. For me self-hypnosis is the best technique to deal with a lot of things, practiced correctly of course.

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  3. I have always wondered about hypnosis. It is nice to see that we now have technology like the MRI Scanner than can measure just how effective this technique can be.

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  4. Klaudine8:26 PM

    I am interested in seeing the MRI scan pertaining to brain wave / signal activity that the brain emits. They are bound to follow up on a study based on hypnotherapy in sydney.

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  5. Dexter Lyons11:46 PM

    hypnosis sydney has been a subject of debate over its perceived positive reinforcement to the mindset. Are people coerced into a mindset or do they coerced themselves to self-belief? It is an interesting debate.

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  6. Very interesting article combining hypnotherapy with an MRI scan to show hypnosis doesn’t work by directly controlling motor activity. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  7. While the connection between the mind and body might not always be direct, the unconscious mind's effect on the body is indisputable. Pretty much everyone understands how our mind can make us sick.. so it only stands to reason that it can also make us well. I can remember clearly coming home from a seminar on mind body relationship and finding my youngest daughter with a 101 fever. I asked her what color the fever was then asked her what color cold was. Then I had her imagine shining the cooling light onto whatever part of her body she found the fever color. Within 15 minutes her temperature was normal. What a confirmation of the power of the unconscious. Thanks for the MRI insight. I love it when mainstream medicine confirms the power of hypnotherapy.

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