How and why does hypnosis work in the brain?

How and why does hypnosis work in the brain?

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Scientists are studying the processes in the brain during hypnosis
Hypnosis is used successfully for various therapeutic purposes. Exactly what processes take place in the brain during hypnosis remains largely unclear. Psychologists from the University of Jena have therefore set themselves the goal of developing a "brain theory of hypnosis". The first results are now available.

"With the help of hypnosis, people get used to smoking, find better sleep and even survive dental visits without pain," reports the University of Jena. So far, however, what processes take place in the brain of a hypnotized person and how exactly hypnosis works remains open. A research project at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena aims to provide scientific answers to the questions. The first results of the project have now been published in the scientific reports.

As part of their project, the scientists examined, according to the study director Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Miltner from the Institute of Psychology at the University of Jena, how the brain enables hypnotic states. "At the moment we have taken a closer look at the processing of visual stimuli," says Miltner. For this purpose, three groups of subjects were examined: people who are very suggestible (receptive) to hypnosis; People for whom this ability is rather mediocre and people with poor hypnosis susceptibility.

Suggested board in front of the eyes
"We made them look hypnotized on a screen on which we showed various symbols, for example a circle or a triangle," explains Dr. Barbara Schmidt from the University of Jena set up the experiment. The test subjects' task was to count a particular symbol, so to focus on it. According to Dr. Schmidt should imagine a board in front of their eyes at the same time. "The number of counting errors increased considerably due to the suggested visual impairment," reports the psychologist. The effect occurred in all three test groups, but was most pronounced in the particularly hypnotizable subjects.

Altered brain activity under hypnosis
During the experiments, the brain activity of the test subjects was measured using an electroencephalograph (EEG). It had been shown that the brain neuronal processes that occurred when the symbols were processed were extremely reduced, about 400 milliseconds after the test subjects had seen the symbol to be observed. Brain activity has decreased significantly, although it should normally be very high at this point, explains Schmidt. Shortly before - up to 200 milliseconds after the presentation of the stimulus - no abnormalities were found.

Processing of stimuli affects
The measurement of brain activity made it clear that simple perception is still taking place, and deeper processing processes, such as counting, are severely impaired, the scientists report. The activity patterns show how hypnosis influences individual regions in the brain when it comes to visual stimulus recording. In further experiments, the processing of acoustic stimuli under hypnosis and the effect of hypnosis on pain relief will now be investigated.

Establish serious hypnosis research
"Until the 1920s, hypnosis was part of medical education and is still used in anesthesia today," explains Prof. Miltner. However, there is little scientific research into why hypnosis works like an anesthetic. There are also too many esoteric speculations on this topic, so that scientists in the field are often confronted with skepticism, the psychologist complains. “We no longer have to show that hypnosis is effective because it has been proven. The main thing is to find out why and how such strange changes in perception are possible in hypnotized people, ”concluded the expert. It is important to establish serious hypnosis research. (fp)

Author and source information

Video: What is hypnosis? Or Your Brain on Hypnosis (July 2022).


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