Here’s What Hypnosis Does To Your Brain

Hypnosis causes some major changes in brain activity. Stokkete/Shutterstock

Because the default mode network (DMN) is largely responsible for a sense of self-awareness and episodic memory while the executive control network (ECN) controls cognition, the disconnection of these two networks would appear to explain how hypnosis enables people to remain conscious and able to act yet with no ability to reflect on their involvement in these actions.

The second major finding was an increase in connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and a brain region called the insula, which is associated with somatic function, pain processing, emotion, empathy, and a sense of time. This, the researchers say, could explain how hypnosis enables people to overcome or manage pain.

Finally, the team noted a decrease in activity in a brain region called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), which forms part of the salience network and is involved in “context evaluation”, helping us decide what to focus on and what to ignore. This finding is highly consistent with the strange behavior of people in hypnotic trances, who often appear totally unaware of certain elements of their environment.

Summing up, the study authors claim that no brain areas are actually shut down during hypnosis. Instead, their connectivity is merely altered, with some becoming separated and some becoming integrated. As such, they claim that their research “reinforces the idea of hypnosis as a different state of consciousness, rather than a reduced level of arousal.”

"Look into my eyes... you are feeling very sleepy... you can feel your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decoupling from your default mode network". Richard Peterson/Shutterstock

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