The New York Times has an article on the increasing interest in hypnosis among cognitive neuroscientists, who are trying to understanding how suggestion and belief can affect basic mental processing.
The article describes some interesting recent work on hypnosis and perception, but omits some of the most fascinating experiments in this area.
A study published in 2003 involved hypnotising participants to simulate experiences of external control, akin to experiences sometimes found in psychosis, to discover whether similar brain areas might be involved in the psychotic and non-psychotic experiences.
Another study, published in the same year, involved hypnotising participants so they thought they were paralysed, in an attempt to better understand ‘hysterical’ paralysis, sometimes known as conversion disorder – a condition where paralysis is thought to occur due to psychological trauma rather than physical damage.
In these cases, hypnotised, non-hypnotised or ‘pretending’ participants were were asked to conduct actions while being brain-scanned, to compare and contrast active brain areas.
Interestingly, these two studies suggested that quite different brain networks were involved in producing the experiences, although both activated the cerebellum, a complex area, known to be involved in movement, but still largely mysterious.
Link to article ‘This Is Your Brain Under Hypnosis’.