Backed by new science, hypnosis is proving increasingly useful as a core component of therapy.
Reveri is making hypnosis more accessible through its new, neuroscience-backed, interactive digital program.
Hypnosis is a highly focused state of attention. Distracting thoughts and sensations are decreased and you become more receptive to new ideas and perspectives.
Researchers have found that self-hypnosis can help many people to leverage the mind- body relationship to improve the way they think about and manage conditions such as stress, pain, and insomnia.
The world you experience is created by a combination of information from your senses, and a layer of interpretation, which is based on your previous experiences or expectations.
In neuroscience this is called top-down processing. It means that your unconscious mind actually has a much stronger effect over your experiences, behavior and body than you might realize. Hypnotherapy allows you to harness the power of your mind to change the way you think and experience the world around you.
In the example of pain, our experience of pain and emotion are the result of an interaction between deeper regions of the brain that process primary experience and the higher frontal regions (including the Executive Control Network (ECN) that put them into perspective and regulate the intensity of sensations.
In other words, sensory experience is top-down as well as bottom-up. In hypnosis, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a major component of the ECN, has heightened functional connectivity to the insula, which is part of the pain network and facilitates mind-body control. It helps to alter and suppress pain perception.
Hypnotherapy has been used for over two centuries to help with problems ranging from social anxiety to chronic pain. It has been rigorously studied in clinical settings. Key findings of its efficacy include:
In a randomized clinical trial of acute surgical pain published in The Lancet, 240 patients undergoing invasive medical procedures were studied. Those taught hypnosis used just half the amount of opioids during the procedure, had half the pain and anxiety, and finished 17 minutes sooner.
Link to study
In a randomized clinical trial of the effects of emotional support and training in self-hypnosis on chronic pain, 54 women with advanced breast cancer were divided into 30 who learned self-hypnosis and 24 who had routine care. By the end of a year the women taught self-hypnosis had half the pain on the same and low amount of pain medications.
Link to study
Dr. Spiegel’s research has identified three brain networks that are involved in hypnosis and bring about the state of focused attention, lack of self-consciousness, and greater control over one’s emotions and body sensations. These are the most important components of hypnotherapy.
The executive control network is active when you are doing something that involves focused attention and working memory - like mental arithmetic.
This network is more connected to a part of brain called the insula in the salience network. It is involved in monitoring the body and emotions. This may be why in hypnosis you have heightened awareness of the sensations in your body.
This network detects and integrates information from your body and emotions. It is activated when you’re challenged or anxious, or working on a task.
There’s less activity in the salience network. When you are hypnotized, you’re more focused and less distracted by anxious or intruding thoughts.
The default mode network is involved in mental imagery, self reflection, and processing your stream of consciousness. This network is most active when you’re at rest or ruminating.
There’s less activity and less connectivity to the executive control network. During hypnosis there’s less rumination and mind wandering and your mind can feel less ‘crowded.’
Jiang, H., White, M. P., Greicius, M. D., Waelde, L. C., & Spiegel, D. (2017). Brain activity and functional connectivity associated with hypnosis. Cerebral cortex, 27 (8), 4083-4093.