This post is adapted from an article in Medscape: Scientists Identify Brain Areas Altered During Hypnosis – Medscape – Aug 02, 2016 by Fran Lowry
A recent study by David Spiegel, MD, professor and associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California, has shown that distinct areas of the brain show altered activity and connectivity during hypnotic trances.
These changes in neural activity underlie the focused attention, enhanced somatic and emotional control, and lack of self-consciousness that characterize the hypnotic state. In other words relaxed focused awareness.
Dr Spiegel told Medscape Medical News that “hypnosis is the oldest Western form of psychotherapy, but it’s been tarred with the brush of dangling watches and purple capes. In fact, it’s a very powerful means of changing the way we use our minds to control perception and our bodies,” Dr Spiegel said.
It’s a tremendous opportunity that people have to learn to better manage themselves and their symptoms, and I would like to see it more widely used.
This study is a way of saying, this hypnotism is an understandable neurobiological phenomenon that can be much better used to help people deal with all kinds of symptoms.”
More about the brain:
Researchers used used functional MRI to examine activity and functional connectivity among three networks in hypnosis: the default mode network, the executive control network, and the salience network. During hypnosis, there was reduced activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate, part of the brain’s salience network. “The dorsal anterior cingulate cortex is a context generator. It helps us decide what is going on in different places and which ones we need to pay more attention to, so if you’re worried about competing activities, you look at the context and decide which is more important,” explained. Decreased activity in this areas means you’re not worrying about the other things you’re not doing, and so you get more fully engaged in the task that you are involved with.
There is also an increase in the connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula; this helps you handle things better because you are dissociating your physical reaction from the mental one,” according to Dr Spiegel. This means people can learn how to picture something that they are worried about without having all the somatic symptoms, for instance, having the heart rate and blood pressure go up.
There is also reduced connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the default mode network, which includes the medial prefrontal and the posterior cingulate cortex alleviating self-consciousness. This helps with anxiety; performance anxiety and social anxiety for example.
So – there it is.
It is all in the mind and we have the science to prove it. We can all use hypnosis to bring ourselves into better states of mind, get relief from physical symptoms and discomfort and feel less anxious.