Space & Innovation

Is Hypnosis A Complete Hoax?

The authenticity of hypnotism has been questioned since it began in the 18th century. Does hypnosis really work or is it all just a hoax?

Hypnosis has been a controversial topic -- in medical circles, anyway -- for more than a century. Some defend its usefulness with evangelical intensity. Others dismiss the phenomenon entirely. So is hypnosis for real?

A new study out of Stanford University concludes that something is happening with hypnosis -- and they have the brain scans to prove it. Jules Suzdaltsev digs into the issue with today's DNews report.

According to the Stanford study, certain parts of the brain definitely function differently under hypnosis than during normal consciousness. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, the researchers found that blood flow patterns in the brain are altered during hypnosis, triggering some very strange effects.

For instance, using the MRI machines, scientists were able to identify reduced activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and increased activity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the brain's salience network.

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Hmm, perhaps some translation is in order: Under hypnosis, it appears that electrical activity increases in the parts of the brain responsible focused attention. Meanwhile, activity decreases in the parts of the brain associated with self-consciousness and reflection. Most significantly, hypnotized subjects showed radically decreased interaction between these two areas.

The brain scan data go a long way to explaining the lack of self-consciousness and suggestibility associated with hypnotism, researchers say. In other words, it's why stage magicians can get middle managers to bark like dogs in Hilton ballrooms during regional sales conferences. The study didn't actually phrase it that way, actually.

Anyway, to keep things fair, the Stanford study drew from a pool of more than 500 potential test subjects and selected those both highly susceptible to hypnosis and those with very low susceptibility. The research points toward a definite biological component to hypnosis, building on hypnotherapy-and-eft/">previous studies that have examined the medical efficacy of hypnotherapy for addiction and other health issues.

Check out Jules' report for some interesting details on the history of hypnosis, the phenomenon of animal magnetism, and a curiously relevant British television law.

-- Glenn McDonald

Read More:

UK Government Legislation: Hypnotism Act 1952

History Of Hypnosis: Franz Anton Mesmer

Oxford Journals: Brain Activity And Functional Connectivity Associated With Hypnosis