Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Brain imaging studies investigate pain reduction by hypnosis

16.03.2005


Although hypnosis has been shown to reduce pain perception, it is not clear how the technique works. Identifying a sound, scientific explanation for hypnosis’ effect might increase acceptance and use of this safe pain-reduction option in clinical settings.



Researchers at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and the Technical University of Aachen, Germany, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to find out if hypnosis alters brain activity in a way that might explain pain reduction. The results are reported in the November-December 2004 issue of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine.

The researchers found that volunteers under hypnosis experienced significant pain reduction in response to painful heat. They also had a distinctly different pattern of brain activity compared to when they were not hypnotized and experienced the painful heat. The changes in brain activity suggest that hypnosis somehow blocks the pain signal from getting to the parts of the brain that perceive pain.


"The major finding from our study, which used fMRI for the first time to investigate brain activity under hypnosis for pain suppression, is that we see reduced activity in areas of the pain network and increased activity in other areas of the brain under hypnosis," said Sebastian Schulz-Stubner, M.D., Ph.D., UI assistant professor (clinical) of anesthesia and first author of the study. "The increased activity might be specific for hypnosis or might be non-specific, but it definitely does something to reduce the pain signal input into the cortical structure."

The pain network functions like a relay system with an input pain signal from a peripheral nerve going to the spinal cord where the information is processed and passed on to the brain stem. From there the signal goes to the mid-brain region and finally into the cortical brain region that deals with conscious perception of external stimuli like pain.

Processing of the pain signal through the lower parts of the pain network looked the same in the brain images for both hypnotized and non-hypnotized trials, but activity in the top level of the network, which would be responsible for "feeling" the pain, was reduced under hypnosis.

Initially, 12 volunteers at the Technical University of Aachen had a heating device placed on their skin to determine the temperature that each volunteer considered painful (8 out of 10 on a 0 to 10 pain scale). The volunteers were then split into two groups. One group was hypnotized, placed in the fMRI machine and their brain activity scanned while the painful thermal stimuli was applied. Then the hypnotic state was broken and a second fMRI scan was performed without hypnosis while the same painful heat was again applied to the volunteer’s skin. The second group underwent their first fMRI scan without hypnosis followed by a second scan under hypnosis.

Hypnosis was successful in reducing pain perception for all 12 participants. Hypnotized volunteers reported either no pain or significantly reduced pain (less than 3 on the 0-10 pain scale) in response to the painful heat.

Under hypnosis, fMRI showed that brain activity was reduced in areas of the pain network, including the primary sensory cortex, which is responsible for pain perception.

The imaging studies also showed increased activation in two other brain structures - the left anterior cingulate cortex and the basal ganglia. The researchers speculate that increased activity in these two regions may be part of an inhibition pathway that blocks the pain signal from reaching the higher cortical structures responsible for pain perception. However, Schulz-Stubner noted that more detailed fMRI images are needed to definitively identify the exact areas involved in hypnosis-induced pain reduction, and he hoped that the newer generation of fMRI machines would be capable of providing more answers.

"Imaging studies like this one improve our understanding of what might be going on and help researchers ask even more specific questions aimed at identifying the underlying mechanism," Schulz-Stubner said. "It is one piece of the puzzle that moves us a little closer to a final answer for how hypnosis really works.

"More practically, for clinical use, it helps to dispel prejudice about hypnosis as a technique to manage pain because we can show an objective, measurable change in brain activity linked to a reduced perception of pain," he added.

In addition to Schulz-Stubner, the research team included Timo Krings, M.D., Ingo Meister, M.D., Stefen Rex, M.D., Armin Thron, M.D., Ph.D. and Rolf Rossaint, M.D., Ph.D., from the Technical University of Aachen, Germany.

Jennifer Brown | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uiowa.edu
http://www.uihealthcare.com

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Nanoparticles as a Solution against Antibiotic Resistance?
15.12.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

nachricht Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests
14.12.2017 | Aalto University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>