Psychologists at Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) aim to develop brain theory of hypnosis
Hypnosis can help people stop smoking, sleep better and even undergo dental treatment without pain. But what exactly is hypnosis and what precisely happens in the brain of a hypnotised person? These questions are currently being studied by psychologists at Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany), together with a colleague from the University of Trier (Germany), as part of a project funded by the German Research Foundation. The aim is to find comprehensive scientific answers to the questions, and the researchers have presented their initial findings in the current issue of the specialist journal “Scientific Reports”.
How the brain enables hypnotic states
“In our project, we are looking at how the brain makes hypnotic states possible,” explains Professor Wolfgang Miltner, who has been working on the phenomenon for decades. “First, we looked more closely at the processing of visual stimuli.” In an experiment, they divided participants into three groups: individuals who were very suggestible, i. e. susceptible to hypnosis, individuals of average suggestibility, and a third group with low suggestibility.
“While they were under hypnosis, we had them look at a screen on which we showed them various symbols, such as a circle or a triangle,” explains Dr Barbara Schmidt, who conducted the experiment. “The test participants were given the task of counting a particular symbol. At the same time, they were told to imagine that there was a wooden board in front of their eyes. As a result of the suggested obstruction, the number of counting errors rose significantly.” The effects were observed in all three test groups, but were strongest in those participants who were easiest to hypnotise.
In order for the researcher to observe brain activity as well, the test participants were linked up to an electroencephalograph (EEG).
“When we look at the neural processes that take place in the brain while processing the symbols, we see that around 400 milliseconds after the presentation of the to-be-counted symbol, there is an extreme reduction in brain activity, although it should normally be very high,” explains Schmidt. “However, a short time before this – up to 200 milliseconds after presentation of the stimulus – there are no differences to be seen.”
This means, therefore, that simple perception still takes place, but that deeper processing operations, such as counting, are greatly impaired. In this way, the University of Jena psychologists were able to find out how hypnosis influences specific regions of the brain while it receives a visual stimulus.
Establishing serious hypnosis research
Further experiments are planned over the years to come. The researchers will be investigating alterations in the processing of acoustic stimuli as well as pain relief during hypnosis. “Until the 1920s, hypnosis was a standard part of medical training and it is being used again today in anaesthesia,” reports Miltner. “However, there is hardly any scientific research examining the reasons why hypnosis works as an anaesthetic.” Unfortunately, there is too much esoteric speculation on this topic, so that scientists working in this area frequently face scepticism. “We no longer have to show that hypnosis is effective, as that has been proven. The task is now above all to find out why and how such curious changes in perception are possible in people who are hypnotised,” says Miltner. “For this reason, we wish to establish hypnosis research that is serious and reputable.”
Schmidt B. et al. The Power of mind: Blocking visual perception by hypnosis. Scientific Reports (2017), 7: 4889, DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-05195-2, http://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-05195-2
Professor Dr Wolfgang H. R. Miltner, Dr Barbara Schmidt
Institute of Psychology of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Am Steiger 3, 07743 Jena, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)3641 / 945140
Email: wolfgang.miltner[at]uni-jena.de, schmidt.barbara[at]uni-jena.de
Sebastian Hollstein | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Do microplastics harbour additional risks by colonization with harmful bacteria?
05.04.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy