Woman's Stare reveals Secret to Hypnosis
By Wayne Parry
Body Odd on msnbc.com
The true nature of hypnosis has eluded scientists. It's clear people can be hypnotized, but it's not clear how this happens. New research offers a clue.
By recording the eye movements of a hypnotized woman, and comparing them with those of nonhypnotized people, researchers say they have found evidence that hypnosis involves a special mental state, fundamentally different from normal consciousness.
First some basics: When under hypnosis, a person becomes more capable of hallucinationand susceptible to suggestions, perhaps intended to help him or her stop craving cigarettes, say, or prompt him or her to hear music that isn't actually playing. If no suggestions are given, a hypnotized person will sit still and his or her mind will enter a calm state, like that associated with meditation. After a session ends, the person doesn't remember it, according to study researcher Sakari Kallio, an associate professor at the University of Skovde in Sweden and University of Turku in Finland.
Some believe these things happen because of a change in brain activity that alters a person's state of consciousness. Another camp believes that under hypnosis, the brain functions just as it would at any other time while awake, and that other, normal processes - like an active imagination - are at work.Solving this debate by measuring brain activity is dicey, since our brain's electrical activity can vary significantly from moment to moment during its normal state. But the identification of a behavior associated with an altered state of consciousness -- something no one could fake -- would go a long way to supporting the idea that hypnosis involves a change in consciousness.