A group of scientists at Stanford University, led by David Spiegel MD, have pinpointed changes in parts of the brain used for emotion, brain and body connection, and our awareness of action in people when they are hypnotised.

Their research involved scanning the brains of 57 participants whilst they were resting, recalling memories, and twice when experiencing hypnotherapy sessions.

The researchers found three obvious changes in the participants that were undergoing hypnosis - although this was only apparent in highly hypnotisable individuals. The scans revealed that certain parts of the brain had changed activity and connectivity.

Activity within the dorsal anterior cingulate, a region which is involved in forming and processing emotions, learning and our memory was actually decreased.

However, there was an increase in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula, a channel between the brain and body. These regions are thought to help the brain process what is going on in the body.

During zoom hypnotherapy, our mind becomes focused so intensely on the suggestions being brought forward, that is it able to ignore pretty much everything else that is happening. This is the reason that properly hypnotised people are able to alter their attitudes during the therapeutic hypnosis, and why some are willing to do unusual things during on stage hypnosis.

This dissociation between our actions and reflection lets the patient wholly engage in activities that are either suggested by a therapist, or suggested by themselves without their self-consciousness about that activity.

For stage hypnosis…

A group of researchers in Finland and Sweden have claimed to find proof that the hypnotic state with glazed and staring eyes exists through one very suggestible subject. Their subject was able to switch between the waking state and hypnosis when a given word was spoken.

They found that this state was also accompanied with changes in the patients automatic and reflexive eye movements that could not be minced by someone who wasn’t actually hypnotised.

Their conclusions meant that hypnosis cannot be seen as a result of thoughts which take place in a normal consciousness.

The success of these studies is good news. Hypnotherapists around the world now have proof of the hypnotic state, and a much better understanding of its neurological correlations. However, it could be bad news for stage hypnotherapists, as what they are inflicting upon people may create lasting results - whether it be positive or negative, it is what the subject takes from the experience.  


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