The University of Zurich, in collaboration with OMNI Hypnosis International / Hypnosis.NET GmbH, has published a groundbreaking study that sheds new light on how our brain experiences hypnosis. This research, part of the HypnoScience® project, is a major step forward in the understanding and acceptance of hypnotherapy in society and medicine.
Two Different Hypnotic States Pictured
The study, conducted with 50 healthy and hypnosis-experienced subjects, shows that hypnosis leads to specific changes in the brain’s functional connectivity. The results show that hypnosis is not only visible and measurable in the brain, but also that at least two different hypnotic states exist (Somnambulism1 and the Esdaile state2). This is the subject of controversial debate in the scientific community, and the results significantly expand our understanding of hypnosis. In addition, there is generally little consensus on the neural mechanisms of hypnosis – again, the study makes a valuable contribution and contributes to the discussion of what brain regions might be involved when a person is hypnotized.
Standardization and Reproducibility
OMNI hypnosis inductions, based on the methods of Dave Elman and Gerald Kein, have been scientifically validated. The results obtained are extremely robust; hypnosis can be observed through the altered functional connectivity in the brain. In other words, you can see in the MRI scanner when the brain is in hypnosis. The data show that the states of Somnambulism1 and Esdaile2 are reliably achieved with our standardized and reproducible methods, even in difficult scanner environments (small spaces, noise, etc.). This is of great importance because in previous studies there was much inconsistency and a lack of coherent methodological standards, often leading to heterogeneous results. The precisely standardized OMNI hypnosis inductions, which can be reproduced by any trained OMNI hypnotherapist, will solve this problem in the future.
Comparisons to Propofol and LSD
Interestingly, the subjects in Somnambulism (1) showed similar patterns in some areas of the brain as those in whom anesthesia was induced with Propofol. In hypnosis, however, you are always fully conscious, so the states are not comparable. Propofol is said to have a relaxing and euphoric effect, a perception also often experienced in hypnosis.
In the Esdaile state (2), subjects often reported altered body perception or a complete “disconnection” from the body. Apparently, these perceptions are associated with altered coupling mechanisms of the cortical somatosensory integration systems in the brain, as is often found in states of consciousness induced by LSD (and other drugs). The authors point out that further studies are needed to confirm this hypothesis.
1) Somnambulism: A deep state of hypnosis, which is a prerequisite for modern and revealing hypnotherapy (Regression to Cause), as well as for enabling pain-reducing sensations (hypno-analgesia), dental work or pain-free childbirth.
2) Esdaile state: A very deep state of deep hypnosis in which a mental euphoria can be experienced and, among other exciting effects that have not yet been studied, a complete absence of pain is automatically achieved (hypno-anesthesia). The Esdaile state can be used in the treatment and counseling of burnout clients, in pain management and in general recovery work. In addition, major surgical procedures can be performed without the use of pain medication or chemical anesthesia
Significance for practice
These results have a direct impact on our practice and training methods; they reinforce the effectiveness and scientific nature of our approaches and open new avenues for the use of hypnosis in medicine and therapy, making hypnosis an important tool in modern health care.
Link to the survey: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2023.1286336/full
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