Neuropsychology of hypnosis

hypnosis_pocket_watch.jpgSeed Magazine discusses how researchers are exploring the neuropsychology of hypnosis to understand this curious state of mind.

Hypnosis fell out of favour in psychological circles as it got taken up by ‘stage hypnotists’, and researchers found out that, contrary to the movie stereotypes, hypnosis actually increases the number of false memories recalled, rather than making remembering more accurate.

Furthermore, ‘hypnotherapy’ seems not to be hugely effective on the current evidence. For example, trials of hypnosis for pain relief when giving birth and smoking cessation have shown mixed results, although it is known to be difficult to design effective trials because hypnotisable individuals are known to be psychologically different from others.

What is a reliable finding, however, is that in particularly susceptible individuals, hypnosis can be used to cause unusual experiences.

Particularly, it is being used as a model of what is alternatively called ‘conversion hysteria’ or ‘conversion disorder‘, where a person might show physical symptoms, such as paralysis, but where they arise from a psychological cause.

Recent experiments have used hypnosis as a way of causing a temporary and reversible paralysis. Participants are then put in a brain scanner to determine which parts of the brain are active, and compared to people with diagnosed conversion disorder.

It turns out that hysterical paralysis may involve similar brain areas to hypnotic paralysis, but shows different patterns of activation to people asked to ‘fake’ a paralysis.

These are interesting findings and may provide an insight into the operation of how the unconscious influences our conscious life.

Nevertheless, thorough investigations into the neuroscience of hypnotic states will still need to be conducted, and Seed Magazine tackles some of the latest research in this area.

Link to article ‘Science finally tackles hypnosis’.


  1. Posted April 30, 2007 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    The Seed magazine article is a pretty good primer, but for more information on hypnosis research look at:

  2. Posted October 20, 2008 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    Hypnosis was approved in 1958 by the American Medical Association. Dave Ellman, a talented Hypnotist, taught medical doctors how to use Hypnosis for years. It was often used in place of anesthesia during surgery.
    You can also practice “Self-Hypnosis” to motivate yourself towards your own goals. For more info see:

  3. Posted December 23, 2009 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Very well done article, do you happen to have the diagrams of the brain scan?
    would be nice seeing the the difference!!

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