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Real Doctors (Life Makers)  |  Clinical  |  Psychiatry , Pyschology and Behavioral Medicine  |  "This Is Your Brain Under Hypnosis" « previous next »
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musheera
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"This Is Your Brain Under Hypnosis"
« on: /November/ 23, 2005, 12:41:38 AM »

"This Is Your
Brain
Under Hypnosis" by Sandra Blakeslee.

Here's the article:


Hypnosis, with its long and checkered history in medicine and
entertainment,
is receiving some new respect from neuroscientists. Recent brain
studies of
people who are susceptible to suggestion indicate that when they act on
the
suggestions their brains show profound changes in how they process
information. The suggestions, researchers report, literally change what
people see, hear, feel and believe to be true.

The new experiments, which used brain imaging, found that people who
were
hypnotized "saw" colors where there were none. Others lost the ability
to
make simple decisions. Some people looked at common English words and
thought that they were gibberish.

"The idea that perceptions can be manipulated by expectations" is
fundamental to the study of cognition, said Michael I. Posner, an
emeritus
professor of neuroscience at the University of Oregon and expert on
attention. "But now we're really getting at the mechanisms."

Even with little understanding of how it works, hypnosis has been used
in
medicine since the 1950's to treat pain and, more recently, as a
treatment
for anxiety, depression, trauma, irritable bowel syndrome and eating
disorders.

There is, however, still disagreement about what exactly the hypnotic
state
is or, indeed, whether it is anything more than an effort to please the
hypnotist or a natural form of extreme concentration where people
become
oblivious to their surroundings while lost in thought.

Hypnosis had a false start in the 18th century when a German physician,
Dr.
Franz Mesmer, devised a miraculous cure for people suffering all manner
of
unexplained medical problems. Amid dim lights and ethereal music played
on a
glass harmonica, he infused them with an invisible "magnetic fluid"
that
only he was able to muster. Thus mesmerized, clients were cured.

Although Dr. Mesmer was eventually discredited, he was the first person
to
show that the mind could be manipulated by suggestion to affect the
body,
historians say. This central finding was resurrected by Dr. James
Braid, an
English ophthalmologist who in 1842 coined the word hypnosis after the
Greek
word for sleep.

Braid reportedly put people into trances by staring at them intently,
but he
did not have a clue as to how it worked. In this vacuum, hypnosis was
adopted by spiritualists and stage magicians who used dangling gold
watches
to induce hypnotic states in volunteers from the audience, and make
them
dance, sing or pretend to be someone else, only to awaken at a hand
clap and
laughter from the crowd.

In medical hands, hypnosis was no laughing matter. In the 19th century,
physicians in India successfully used hypnosis as anesthesia, even for
limb
amputations. The practice fell from favor only when ether was
discovered.

Now, Dr. Posner and others said, new research on hypnosis and
suggestion is
providing a new view into the cogs and wheels of normal brain function.

One area that it may have illuminated is the processing of sensory
data.
Information from the eyes, ears and body is carried to primary sensory
regions in the brain. From there, it is carried to so-called higher
regions
where interpretation occurs.

For example, photons bouncing off a flower first reach the eye, where
they
are turned into a pattern that is sent to the primary visual cortex.
There,
the rough shape of the flower is recognized. The pattern is next sent
to a
higher - in terms of function - region, where color is recognized, and
then
to a higher region, where the flower's identity is encoded along with
other
knowledge about the particular bloom.

The same processing stream, from lower to higher regions, exists for
sounds,
touch and other sensory information. Researchers call this direction of
flow
feedforward. As raw sensory data is carried to a part of the brain that
creates a comprehensible, conscious impression, the data is moving from
bottom to top.

Bundles of nerve cells dedicated to each sense carry sensory
information.
The surprise is the amount of traffic the other way, from top to
bottom,
called feedback. There are 10 times as many nerve fibers carrying
information down as there are carrying it up.

These extensive feedback circuits mean that consciousness, what people
see,
hear, feel and believe, is based on what neuroscientists call "top down
processing." What you see is not always what you get, because what you
see
depends on a framework built by experience that stands ready to
interpret
the raw information - as a flower or a hammer or a face.

The top-down structure explains a lot. If the construction of reality
has so
much top-down processing, that would make sense of the powers of
placebos (a
sugar pill will make you feel better), nocebos (a witch doctor will
make you
ill), talk therapy and meditation. If the top is convinced, the bottom
level
of data will be overruled.

This brain structure would also explain hypnosis, which is all about
creating such formidable top-down processing that suggestions overcome
reality.

According to decades of research, 10 to 15 percent of adults are highly
hypnotizable, said Dr. David Spiegel, a psychiatrist at Stanford who
studies
the clinical uses of hypnosis. Up to age 12, however, before top-down
circuits mature, 80 to 85 percent of children are highly hypnotizable.

One adult in five is flat out resistant to hypnosis, Dr. Spiegel said.
The
rest are in between, he said.

In some of the most recent work, Dr. Amir Raz, an assistant professor
of
clinical neuroscience at Columbia, chose to study highly hypnotizable
people
with the help of a standard psychological test that probes conflict in
the
brain. As a professional magician who became a scientist to understand
better the slippery nature of attention, Dr. Raz said that he "wanted
to do
something really impressive" that other neuroscientists could not
ignore.

The probe, called the Stroop test, presents words in block letters in
the
colors red, blue, green and yellow. The subject has to press a button
identifying the color of the letters. The difficulty is that sometimes
the
word RED is colored green. Or the word YELLOW is colored blue.

For people who are literate, reading is so deeply ingrained that it
invariably takes them a little bit longer to override the automatic
reading
of a word like RED and press a button that says green. This is called
the
Stroop effect.

Sixteen people, half highly hypnotizable and half resistant, went into
Dr.
Raz's lab after having been covertly tested for hypnotizability. The
purpose
of the study, they were told, was to investigate the effects of
suggestion
on cognitive performance. After each person underwent a hypnotic
induction,
Dr. Raz said:

"Very soon you will be playing a computer game inside a brain scanner.
Every
time you hear my voice over the intercom, you will immediately realize
that
meaningless symbols are going to appear in the middle of the screen.
They
will feel like characters in a foreign language that you do not know,
and
you will not attempt to attribute any meaning to them.

"This gibberish will be printed in one of four ink colors: red, blue,
green
or yellow. Although you will only attend to color, you will see all the
scrambled signs crisply. Your job is to quickly and accurately depress
the
key that corresponds to the color shown. You can play this game
effortlessly. As soon as the scanning noise stops, you will relax back
to
your regular reading self."

Dr. Raz then ended the hypnosis session, leaving each person with what
is
called a posthypnotic suggestion, an instruction to carry out an action
while not hypnotized.

Days later, the subjects entered the brain scanner.

In highly hypnotizables, when Dr. Raz's instructions came over the
intercom,
the Stroop effect was obliterated, he said. The subjects saw English
words
as gibberish and named colors instantly. But for those who were
resistant to
hypnosis, the Stroop effect prevailed, rendering them significantly
slower
in naming the colors.

When the brain scans of the two groups were compared, a distinct
pattern
appeared. Among the hypnotizables, Dr. Raz said, the visual area of the
brain that usually decodes written words did not become active. And a
region
in the front of the brain that usually detects conflict was similarly
dampened.

Top-down processes overrode brain circuits devoted to reading and
detecting
conflict, Dr. Raz said, although he did not know exactly how that
happened.
Those results appeared in July in The Proceedings of the National
Academy of
Sciences.

A number of other recent studies of brain imaging point to similar
top-down
brain mechanisms under the influence of suggestion. Highly hypnotizable
people were able to "drain" color from a colorful abstract drawing or
"add"
color to the same drawing rendered in gray tones. In each case, the
parts of
their brains involved in color perception were differently activated.

Brain scans show that the control mechanisms for deciding what to do in
the
face of conflict become uncoupled when people are hypnotized. Top-down
processes override sensory, or bottom-up information, said Dr. Stephen
M.
Kosslyn, a neuroscientist at Harvard. People think that sights, sounds
and
touch from the outside world constitute reality. But the brain
constructs
what it perceives based on past experience, Dr. Kosslyn said.

Most of the time bottom-up information matches top-down expectation,
Dr.
Spiegel said. But hypnosis is interesting because it creates a
mismatch. "We
imagine something different, so it is different," he said.
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anwarica
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Re: "This Is Your Brain Under Hypnosis"
« Reply #1 on: /November/ 23, 2005, 12:06:37 PM »

Thank you Dr. Musheera  clapping
I was downloading some books/programs about hypnosis few days ago Smiley
I'll have a look ; where are they and post them Insha'Allah.
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cleo_md
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Re: "This Is Your Brain Under Hypnosis"
« Reply #2 on: /November/ 27, 2005, 08:15:47 AM »

Very interesting Dr Musheers Smiley
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