Since it’s early roots in animal magnetism back in the 19th Century, Hypnosis has always stirred controversy among the medical and science communities as being fake because we have been unable to provide scientific proof. The reason for this is because we lacked the technology to determine if hypnosis really was changing the brain, or if the participants were “faking it” by simply going along with social queues. Now we have scientific proof that hypnosis is an effective tool to help people overcome their problems, and that hypnosis actually changes the brain as a result of being hypnotised.
Study 1 – Hypnotic visual illusion alters colour processing in the brain
I first heard about this study from The Daily Mail, one of the most trusted and recognised tabloids in the United Kingdom recently published an article where they interviewed one of America’s leading psychiatrists. In this interview, David Spiegel who is the Associate Chair of Psychiatry & Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University explained a clever experiment he performed that was designed to scientifically test if the brain is actually affected when participants are hypnotised.
In this experiment he scanned the brains of volunteers who were told they were looking at coloured objects when they were actually black and white. The brain scans showed areas of the brain used to register colour highlighted increased blood flow, indicating that the volunteers genuinely ‘saw’ colours, as they had been told they would.
You can read the full study here Hypnotic visual illusion alters colour processing in the brain
Study 2 – Hypnotic suggestion and the modulation of Stroop interference.
In psychology the Stroop Effect is a task designed to measure reaction times. Words of colours are flashed on screen, and participants have to say the color of the word. The faster the words are displayed on screen, we become more prone to error because reading words is considered to be an automatic skill; a proficient reader cannot withhold accessing a word’s meaning, despite instructions to attend only to the color of the word.
Here’s an example of the Stroop Effect from a TV Showed ‘Redesign My Brain‘
In one study by the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, participants were placed into one of two groups (highly hypnotizable or control group) depending on their level of suggestibility in a hypnotic context. The highly hypnotizables were given a post hypnotic suggestion to temporarily forget language, so that they can only respond to the color of the word.
“Very soon you will be playing the computer game. When I clap my hands, meaningless symbols will appear in the middle of the screen. They will feel like characters of a foreign language that you do not know, and you will not attempt to attribute any meaning to them. This gibberish will be printed in one of 4 ink colors: red, blue, green or yellow. Although you will only be able to attend to the symbols’ ink color, you will look straight at the scrambled signs and crisply see all of them. Your job is to quickly and accurately depress the key that corresponds to the ink color shown. You will find that you can play this game easily and effortlessly.”
The highly hypnotizable with the post hypnotic suggestion eliminated the Stroop Interference, the control group showed no significant reduction in the interference effect. The results of the study indicate that the Stroop Effect can be removed and performance can be significantly enhanced by hypnosis.
You can read the full study here Hypnotic suggestion and the modulation of Stroop interference
Study 3 – Hypnosis Reduces Pain and Costs in Breast Cancer Surgery
Scientific American magazine published an article in their 60 Second Mind series about “Going Under Hypnosis Before Going into Surgery“. A study by Journal of the National Cancer Institute conducted a clinical trial to study the effects of hypnosis 15 minutes before surgery. Researches compared compared the use of pain medications and sedatives during surgery, as well as the levels of pain and other side effects reported afterwards. Patients in the hypnosis group required less anesthesia than patients in the control group. They also reported less pain, nausea, fatigue, discomfort, and emotional upset after surgery. They spent less time in surgery (almost 11 minutes less), and their surgical costs were reduced by about $773 per patient, mainly due to the time savings.
You can read the full study here Hypnosis Reduces Pain and Costs in Breast Cancer Surgery
This is scientific evidence that change takes place in the brain when people are being hypnotised. It also demonstrates that there is a powerful relationship between the body and the mind and that people who been cured of fears and phobias have been genuinely cured. It also opens the door for more medical research into how hypnosis can help people manage pain and anxiety.