A new study conducted by psychiatrists at Stanford University School of Medicine found a distinctive signature in the brains of patients under hypnosis. While hypnotized, the subjects’ brains displayed reduced activity in the region of the brain that keeps them in tune with their external environment, while strengthening the bond between mind and body.
Furthermore, the highly suggestible state of mind typically associated with hypnosis is buttressed by evidence that hypnosis weakens regions of the brain normally important for self-consciousness.
via Stat News:
The scientists also found that the connections between other regions of the brain became stronger. Some of these regions strengthen the bond between the mind and body, regulating how much pain we feel, for example. Those connections could help make hypnotizable people more suggestible.
At the same time, some regions of the brain became disconnected. Those regions normally are important for self-consciousness. By weakening those connections, hypnosis may allow people to do things they might never do in their normal life.
“That’s why stage hypnotists can get football coaches to dance like a ballerina,” said Spiegel.
Because the study is the first of its kind, it remains to be seen if more experiments will uncover the same patterns. And while the experiment offers clues to what happens during hypnosis, it’s still an open question why the highs are so prone to slip into the state.
“People who have traumatic experiences tend to disconnect,” said Spiegel. On a neurological level, that experience may have strengthened and weakened connections between certain regions of the brain — changes that made them able to be hypnotized later in life.Spiegel noted that some studies have found that highs are unusually likely to have experienced stress early in life.