Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Science of Hypnosis

I honestly don't understand hypnosis very well. It definitely has an effect on people, but its powers are also overblown in our popular culture. You may be able to put someone in a trance-like state, but you can't program a person to rob a bank or remember their alien abduction. If hypnosis was that useful, the world would be run by hypnotists. Wait a second! Is that why I can't look away from Barack Obama? Nah, it's probably just those six pack abs. Anyway, scientists from the University of Geneva have come up with some interesting results in a study of hypnosis-induced paralysis. They asked test subjects to press a button with one hand while their brains were being scanned. One group was given a hypnotic suggestion that their hand was too heavy to lift, another group was given no suggestion at all, and a third group simply pretended that their hands couldn't move. The scans showed that the group under hypnosis demonstrated a strange anomaly in their brains. Their motor cortices appeared to actively try and move their hands, but the message didn't communicate with the normal parts of the brain. Instead, it was unusually synced with the precuneus. This may be evidence that hypnotic suggestion can fundamentally alter the way your brain communicates with itself, but as one scientist who didn't participate in the study brought up the good point that this could also just show how a trance itself affects the brain and not necessarily how specific suggestions work. In other words, try and quell your hopes of becoming an all-powerful hypnotic sex god. At least for now. More details here.