Well, today is one of those days that I am slipping into ‘smug mode’ as Kryten from Red Dwarf would say.
I am delighted that a group of researchers in Israel have demonstrated that hypnosis actually produces measurable changes in the brain, proving that hypnosis certainly does result in an altered state of consciousness.
So, we have yet more proof! Yay!
Some sceptics, including some high profile media investigations, argue that hypnosis is actually an exaggerated form of social compliance, where the hypnotic subject suspends their critical faculties to do whatever a hypnotist asks of them.
I tend to argue that that is partly what hypnosis is anyway!
However, Prof Yadin Dudai, a researcher at The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, insists that brain scans of people taken after a hypnotic suggestion to forget (hypnotically induced amnesia) have revealed that parts of the brain really are affected.
During the study, two groups of volunteers — people susceptible to hypnotic suggestions, and individuals who were not (in my opinion we all are as suscxeptible as each other to hypnosis, however, some people respond to certain methods better than others — for example, I do not hypnotise well with pink fluffy clouds!) ANyway, these people were shown a documentary depicting a day in the life of a young woman.
After a week, the participants were placed in a brain scanner. They were then induced into a hypnotic state, and given a posthypnotic suggestion to forget the film, along with a reversibility cue that would restore the memory.
The researchers tested the subjects for their recall after they had come out of the hypnotic state. They then gave the participants the reversibility cue, and tested their recall again.
When compared to the hypnosis-non-susceptible group, the hypnosis-susceptible group showed reduced recall of the movie.
When the researchers analysed brain scans of the subjects, they found distinctive differences in specific brain areas — namely, occipital, temporal, and prefrontal areas — among participants in the two
“The surprise for us was that activity was raised during memory suppression in one specific region in the frontal cortex,” the Telegraph quoted Dudai as saying.
In effect, he added, it probably told the other brain regions “don’t even think about retrieving that memory”.
“The one thing we can say for sure is that hypnotism worked under the conditions we used,” said Prof Dudai, adding that the findings were different from those seen in people who attemptted to deceive.
“We are therefore highly confident that this is not an artifact,” he added.
The researchers believe that their insights into memory suppression and recall may help understand the mechanisms underlying some forms of amnesia, besides explaining how people suppress distressing memories or things.
I have seen hypnotherapy used with many of my clients where repressed memories have come to the fore and I am really excited to see some scientific evidence to support and explain further what is actually going on.