Below are some extracts from various articles concerning hypnosis within the
journal "Scientific American?


Is hypnosis a real phenomenon? If so, what is it used for? Over the past few years,

researchers have found that hypnotized individuals actively respond to suggestions even
though they sometimes perceive the dramatic changes in thought and behaviour they
experience as happening "by themselves." During hypnosis, it is as though the brain
suspends its attempts to authenticate incoming sensory information. Some people are
more hypnotizable than others, although scientists still don't know why. Nevertheless,
hypnosis is finding medical uses in controlling chronic pain, in counteracting anxiety and
even-in combination with conventional operating room procedures-in helping patients to
recover more quickly from outpatient surgery.

Only in the past 40 years have scientists been equipped with instruments and methods for

discerning the facts of hypnosis from exaggerated claims. But the study of hypnotic
phenomena is now squarely in the domain of normal cognitive science, with papers on
hypnosis published in some of the most selective scientific and medical journals. Of
course, spectacles such as "stage hypnosis" for entertainment purposes have not
disappeared, but the new findings reveal how when used properly, the power of hypnotic
suggestion can alter cognitive processes as diverse as memory and pain perception.

In 1997 Pierre Rainville of the University of Montreal and his colleagues set out to

determine which brain structures are involved in pain relief during hypnosis. They
attempted to locate the brain structures associated with the suffering component of pain,
as distinct from its sensory aspects. Using PET, the scientists found that hypnosis
reduces the activity of the anterior cingulate cortex-an area known to be involved in pain-
but did not affect the activity of the somatosensory cortex, where the sensations of pain
are processed. Despite these findings, however, the mechanisms underlying hypnotic
pain relief are still poorly understood. The model favoured by most researchers is that
the analgesic effect hypnosis occurs in higher pain centres than those involved in
registering the painful sensation. This would account for the fact that most autonomic
responses that routinely accompany pain-such as increased heart rate-are relatively
unaffected by hypnotic suggestions of analgesia.

HYPNOSIS MIGHT ALLEVIATE pain by decreasing the activity of brain areas

involved in the experience of suffering. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans of
horizontal and vertical brain sections were taken while the hands of hypnotized
volunteers were dunked into painfully hot water. The activity of the somatosensory
cortex, which possesses physical stimuli, did not differ whether a subject was given the
hypnotic suggestion that the sensation would be painfully hot or that it would be
minimally unpleasant. In contrast, a part of the brain known to be involved in the
suffering aspect of pain, the anterior cingulated cortex, was much less active when
subjects were told that the pain would be minimally unpleasant.

But couldn't people merely be faking that they had been hypnotized? Two key studies

have put such suspicions to rest. In a cunning 1971 experiment dubbed The Disappearing
Hypnotist, Frederick Evens and Martin T. Ome of the University of Pennsylvania
compared the reactions of two groups of subjects: one made up of people they knew to be
truly hypnotizable and another of individuals they told to pretend to be hypnotized. An
experimenter who did not know which group was which conducted a routine hypnotic
procedure that was suddenly interrupted by a bogus power failure. When the
experimenter left the room to investigate the situation, the pretending subjects
immediately stopped faking: they opened their eyes, looked around the room and in ail
respects dropped the pretence. The real hypnotic subjects, however, slowly and with
some difficulty terminated hypnosis by themselves.

SO WHAT ARE the medical benefits of hypnosis? A 1996 National Institutes of Health
technology assessment panel judged hypnosis to be an effective intervention for *
alleviating PAIN from cancer and other chronic conditions. Voluminous clinical studies
also indicate that hypnosis can reduce the acute pain experienced by patients undergoing
bum wound debridement, children enduring bone marrow aspirations and women in
LABOUR. A meta-analysis published in a recent special issue of the International
Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, for example, found that hypnotic
suggestions relieved the pain of 75 percent of 933 subjects participating in 27 different
experiments. The pain-relieving effect of hypnosis is often substantial, and in a few cases
the degree of relief matches or exceeds that provided by morphine.

But the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis says that hypnosis cannot, and

should not, stand alone as the sole medical or psychological intervention for any disorder.
The reason is that anyone who can read a script with some degree of expression can learn
how to hypnotise someone. An individual with a medical or psychological problem
should first consult a qualified health care provider for a diagnosis. Such a practitioner is
in the best position to decide with the patient whether hypnosis is indicated and, if it is,
how it might be incorporated into the individual's treatment.

* Hypnosis can boost the effectiveness of psychotherapy for some people in 18 separate

studies found that patients who received cognitive behavioural therapy plus hypnosis for
disorders such as obesity, insomnia, anxiety, and hypertension showed greater
improvement than 70 percent of the patients who received psychotherapy alone. After
publication of these findings, a task force of the American Psychological Association
validated hypnosis as an adjunct procedure for the treatment of obesity. But the jury is
still out on the other disorders with a behavioural component. Drug addiction and
alcoholism do not respond well to hypnosis, and the evidence for hypnosis as an aid in
quitting smoking is equivocal.

That said, there is strong, but not yet definitive, evidence that hypnosis can be an

effective component in the broader treatment of other conditions. Listed in rough order
oftractability by hypnosis, these include * a subgroup of asthmas; * some dermatological
disorders, including warts; * irritable bowel syndrome; * haemophilia; and nausea
associated with chemotherapy. The mechanism by which alleviates these disorders is
unknown, and claims that hypnosis increases immune function in any clinically important
way are at this time unsubstantiated.

More than 30 years ago Hilgard predicted that as knowledge about hypnosis becomes

more widespread in the scientific community, a process of "domestication" will take
place: researchers will use the technique more and more often as a routine tool to study
other topics of interest, such as hallucinations, pain and memory.

Daily Telegraph Article September 2004