Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I Suggest... Neuroimaging Studies of Hypnosis

Now back to our irregularly scheduled neuroscience programming!

There's a series of in press articles about hypnosis in the Journal of Physiology (Paris). I'll take a look and report back.

Functional neuroanatomy of the hypnotic state
In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 5 June 2006
Marie-Elisabeth Faymonville, Mélanie Boly and Steven Laureys
SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (284 K)

The neural mechanisms underlying hypnosis and especially the modulation of pain perception by hypnosis remain obscure. Using PET we first described the distribution of regional cerebral blood flow during the hypnotic state. Hypnosis relied on revivification of pleasant autobiographical memories and was compared to imaging autobiographical material in "normal alertness". The hypnotic state was related to the activation of a widespread set of cortical areas involving occipital, parietal, precentral, premotor, and ventrolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices. This pattern of activation shares some similarities with mental imagery, from which it mainly differs by the relative deactivation of precuneus. Second, we looked at the anti-nociceptive effects of hypnosis. Compared to the resting state, hypnosis reduced pain perception by approximately 50%. The hypnosis-induced reduction of affective and sensory responses to noxious thermal stimulation were modulated by the activity in the midcingulate cortex (area 24a′). Finally, we assessed changes in cerebral functional connectivity related to hypnosis. Compared to normal alertness (i.e., rest and mental imagery), the hypnotic state, significantly enhanced the functional modulation between midcingulate cortex and a large neural network involved in sensory, affective, cognitive and behavioral aspects of nociception. These findings show that not only pharmacological but also psychological strategies for pain control can modulate the cerebral network involved in noxious perception.

Neuroimaging and genetic associations of attentional and hypnotic processes
In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 5 June 2006
Amir Raz, Jin Fan and Michael I. Posner
SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (1022 K)

In the aftermath of the human genome project, genotyping is fast becoming an affordable and technologically viable complement to phenotyping. Whereas attempts to characterize hypnotic responsiveness have been largely phenomenological, data emanating from exploratory genetic data may offer supplementary insights into the genetic bases of hypnotizability. We outline our genetic and neuroimaging findings and discuss potential implications to top–down control systems. These results may explain individual differences in hypnotizability and propose new ideas for studying the influence of suggestion on neural systems.

Learning in trance: Functional brain imaging studies and neuropsychology
In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 5 June 2006
Ulrike Halsband
SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (1080 K)

This study examined the fundamental question, whether verbal memory processing in hypnosis and in the waking state is mediated by a common neural system or by distinct cortical areas. Seven right-handed volunteers (25.4 years, sd 3.1) with high-hypnotic susceptibility scores were PET-scanned while encoding/retrieving word associations either in hypnosis or in the waking state. Word-pairs were visually presented and highly imaginable, but not semantically related (e.g. monkey-street). The presentation of pseudo-words served as a reference condition. An emission scan was recorded after each intravenous administration of O-15 water. Encoding under hypnosis was associated with more pronounced bilateral activations in the occipital cortex and the prefrontal areas as compared to learning in the waking state. During memory retrieval of word-pairs which had been previously learned under hypnosis, activations were found in the occipital lobe and the cerebellum. Under both experimental conditions precuneus and prefrontal cortex showed a consistent bilateral activation which was most distinct when the learning had taken place under hypnosis.

In order to further analyze the effect of hypnosis on imagery-mediated learning, we administered sets of high-imagery word-pairs and sets of abstract words. In the first experimental condition word-pair associations were presented visually. In the second condition it was found that highly hypnotisable persons recalled significantly more high-imagery words under hypnosis as compared to low-hypnotisables both in the visual and auditory modality. Furthermore, high-imagery words were also better recalled by the highly hypnotisable subjects during the non-hypnotic condition. The memory effect was consistently present under both, immediate and delayed recall conditions. Taken together, the findings advance our understanding of the neural representation that underlies hypnosis and the neuropsychological correlates of hypnotic susceptibility.

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At June 06, 2006 9:02 PM, Blogger Dan Dright said...

I'm feeling sleepy, sleepy.

At June 06, 2006 9:08 PM, Anonymous Roy said...

Cerebral activation during hypnotically induced and imagined pain: essentially shows that hypnotically-suggested pain activates some of the same brain pathways as actual physical pain. Pretty cool.

And this one (Salient findings: A potentially groundbreaking study on the neuroscience of hypnotizability, a critical review of hypnosis' efficacy, and the neurophysiology of conversion disorder) sounds interesting as well.

At June 06, 2006 11:26 PM, Blogger The Neurocritic said...

Thanks for the additional references, Roy.


At August 09, 2006 2:09 AM, Anonymous Rick Collingwood said...

Excellent research Neurocritic, good to see it can be measured and evaluated. The other 2 articles are excellent as well.
Rick Collingwood

At November 10, 2006 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note that there has also been a physical 'proof' of the hypnotic state. This has been published in a medical textbook as well.
I found this among other references on the web:


At June 27, 2009 10:31 PM, Anonymous Dr Andrew Power said...

There is nothing quite like scientific measurement to support existing theory and practice.


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