Science Could Help Hypnotism Become More Effective
Hypnotism is one of those controversial topics that has sparked untold debates around the world for decades. Is it real, or just an elaborate con? Whatever your personal beliefs and feelings about it, it is one of those things that attracts us in the way that fascinating yet terrifying things do.
While most of us think of it as nothing more than entertainment, the truth is that hypnotism has been used as a medical treatment since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. But thanks to the Franklin Commission announcing that “mesmerism” has no therapeutic benefit back in 1784, it has never really gained a foothold in medicine.
Although hypnotherapy, as it is known, has been ridiculed for decades, it hasn’t stopped researchers from studying it. And according to a quote from Penn State psychologist William Ray in a recent Big Think article Science Reveals That Hypnosis is Real, there are over 12,000 papers published on the subject!
Many of these have disappeared into obscurity, but one of the most prevalent arguments has been whether a hypnotic trance is simply an effect of the hypnotized person’s expectations or actually a separate neurophysiological state.
However, a recent study conducted by a group of researchers at Stanford seems to support the latter theory – revealing that certain parts of the brain function differently when a person is hypnotized versus when they are not. In other words, the brain changes while in a hypnotic trance.
Led by David Spiegel, MD this study used fMRI’s to scan the brains of 57 people, 36 of whom were highly susceptible to hypnotism, while they performed four different tasks. These tasks included a memory retrieval exercise, a resting exercise, and two exercises while in a hypnotic trance.
Although it is not really the most precise tool for the job, these fMRI’s discovered that there are significant changes in three main regions of the brain – those that control our vigilance, our self-consciousness and our ability to lose ourselves in something.
Although previous studies have shown hypnotherapy to be highly effective in pain management, the fascinating discoveries from this study were about which parts of the brain are more active or less active while hypnotized, and also a possible brain signature for hypnotizability.
At the end of the day, this particular study and the further studies its findings may lead to could help scientists make hypnosis more effective. So now the question you have to ask yourself is this. Does the possibility that hypnosis could become more effective terrify you or fascinate you?