Contrary to common belief there are over 13,000 medical and scientific research papers on the positive effects of hypnosis and hypnotherapy on clinical subjects.

Neuroscience is getting serious about hypnosis and the positive and powerful effect hypnosis can offer for medical patient management.

Unfortunately, Hypnosis has often been misused and become synonymous with stage entertainment where the performer puts volunteers from the audience into a trance and commands them to do embarrassing things. This makes it sound like a joke, but in fact hypnosis is a real phenomenon and it is proving increasingly useful to psychologists and neuroscientists, granting new insights into mental processes and medically unexplained neurological disorders.


1. Hypnotic suggestion: opportunities for cognitive neuroscience.
Oakley DA, and Halligan PW (2013). Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, WC1H 0AP, UK.
Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 14 (8), 565-76 PMID: 23860312.

Hypnosis uses the powerful effects of attention and suggestion to produce, modify and enhance a broad range of subjectively compelling experiences and behaviours. For more than a century, hypnotic suggestion has been used successfully as an adjunctive procedure to treat a wide range of clinical conditions. More recently, hypnosis has attracted a growing interest from a cognitive neuroscience perspective.

Recent studies using hypnotic suggestion show how manipulating subjective awareness in the laboratory can provide insights into brain mechanisms involved in attention, motor control, pain perception, beliefs and volition. Moreover, they indicate that hypnotic suggestion can create informative analogues of clinical conditions that may be useful for understanding these conditions and their treatments.


2. Psychophysiological correlates of hypnosis and hypnotic susceptibility.
de Pascalis V1., University of Rome, Italy.
International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 1999 Apr;47(2):117-43.

This article reviews and summarizes electroencephalographic (EEG)-based research on physiological and cognitive indicators of hypnotic responding and hypnotic susceptibility, with special attention to the author’s programmatic research in this area.

Evidence that differences in attention levels may account for hypnotic depth and individual differences in hypnotizability is provided with traditional EEG rhythms, event-related potentials, and 40-Hz EEG activity. The alteration of stimulus perception may be a secondary effect with respect to allocation of attentional resources. In both nonhypnosis and hypnosis conditions, high hypnotizables appeared to show greater task-related EEG hemispheric shifts than did low hypnotizables.

Findings concerning cognitive and physiological correlates of hypnotic analgesia are discussed with respect to hemispheric functioning in the apparent control of focused and sustained attention. The conclusion is that although a definitive EEG-based signature for hypnosis and hypnotizability is not yet established, there are a number of promising leads.


3. Hypnosis and neuroscience: a cross talk between clinical and cognitive research.
Raz A1, Shapiro T., Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology, Department of Psychiatry, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, 1300 York Ave, PO Box 140, New York, NY 10021, USA.
Archives of General Psychiatry. 2002 Jan;59(1):85-90.

Despite its long use in clinical settings, the checkered reputation of hypnosis has dimmed its promise as a research instrument. Whereas cognitive neuroscience has scantily fostered hypnosis as a manipulation, neuroimaging techniques offer new opportunities to use hypnosis and posthypnotic suggestion as probes into brain mechanisms and, reciprocally, provide a means of studying hypnosis itself. We outline how the hypnotic state can serve as a way to tap neurocognitive questions and how cognitive assays can in turn shed new light on the neural bases of hypnosis. This cross talk should enhance research and clinical applications.


4. Hypnosis and the control of attention: where to from here?
MacLeod CM1., Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1.
Consciousness and Cognition. 2011 Jun;20(2):321-4. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2009.10.007. Epub 2009 Dec 6.

Can suggestion, particularly hypnotic suggestion, influence cognition? Addressing this intriguing question experimentally is on the rise in cognitive research, nowhere more prevalently than in the domain of cognitive control and attention. This may well rest on the intuitive connection between hypnotic suggestion and attention, where the hypnotist controls the subject’s attention.

Particularly impressive has been the work of Raz and his colleagues demonstrating the modulation and even the complete elimination of classic Stroop color-word interference when subjects are given a posthypnotic suggestion that words are meaningless.

Overriding a highly practiced, possibly even automatic response like reading is testament to the attentional control that can be exerted under (post)hypnotic suggestion. What else do we need to know–in the Stroop context and more broadly–to obtain a clear picture of how suggestion can orchestrate attention?



5. New directions in hypnosis research: strategies for advancing the cognitive and clinical neuroscience of hypnosis
Mark P Jensen Graham A Jamieson Antoine Lutz Giuliana Mazzoni William J McGeown Enrica L Santarcangelo Athena Demertzi Vilfredo De Pascalis Éva I Bányai Christian Rominger Patrik Vuilleumier Marie-Elisabeth Faymonville Devin B Terhune
Neuroscience of Consciousness, Volume 2017, Issue 1, 1 January 2017, nix004,

This article summarizes key advances in hypnosis research during the past two decades, including (i) clinical research supporting the efficacy of hypnosis for managing a number of clinical symptoms and conditions, (ii) research supporting the role of various divisions in the anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortices in hypnotic responding, and (iii) an emerging finding that high hypnotic suggestibility is associated with atypical brain connectivity profiles.

Key recommendations for a research agenda for the next decade include the recommendations that (i) laboratory hypnosis researchers should strongly consider how they assess hypnotic suggestibility in their studies, (ii) inclusion of study participants who score in the middle range of hypnotic suggestibility, and (iii) use of expanding research designs that more clearly delineate the roles of inductions and specific suggestions. Finally, we make two specific suggestions for helping to move the field forward including (i) the use of data sharing and (ii) redirecting resources away from contrasting state and nonstate positions toward studying (a) the efficacy of hypnotic treatments for clinical conditions influenced by central nervous system processes and (b) the neurophysiological underpinnings of hypnotic phenomena.

As we learn more about the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying hypnosis and suggestion, we will strengthen our knowledge of both basic brain functions and a host of different psychological functions.