Amir Raz

McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

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Publications (78)238.2 Total impact

  • Mathieu Landry, Amir Raz
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    ABSTRACT: Over more than two decades, studies using imaging techniques of the living human brain have begun to explore the neural correlates of hypnosis. The collective findings provide a gripping, albeit preliminary, account of the underlying neurobiological mechanisms involved in hypnotic phenomena. While substantial advances lend support to different hypotheses pertaining to hypnotic modulation of attention, control, and monitoring processes, the complex interactions among the many mediating variables largely hinder our ability to isolate robust commonalities across studies. The present account presents a critical integrative synthesis of neuroimaging studies targeting hypnosis as a function of suggestion. Specifically, hypnotic induction without task-specific suggestion is examined, as well as suggestions concerning sensation and perception, memory, and ideomotor response. The importance of carefully designed experiments is highlighted to better tease apart the neural correlates that subserve hypnotic phenomena. Moreover, converging findings intimate that hypnotic suggestions seem to induce specific neural patterns. These observations propose that suggestions may have the ability to target focal brain networks. Drawing on evidence spanning several technological modalities, neuroimaging studies of hypnosis pave the road to a more scientific understanding of a dramatic, yet largely evasive, domain of human behavior.
    The American journal of clinical hypnosis 01/2015; 57(3):285-313. DOI:10.1080/00029157.2014.978496 · 0.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Studying how children and adults explain magic tricks can reveal developmental differences in cognition. We showed 167 children (aged 4-13 years) a video of a magician making a pen vanish and asked them to explain the trick. Although most tried to explain the secret, none of them correctly identified it. The younger children provided more supernatural interpretations and more often took the magician's actions at face value. Combined with a similar study of adults (N = 1008), we found that both young children and older adults were particularly overconfident in their explanations of the trick. Our methodology demonstrates the feasibility of using magic to study cognitive development across the life span.
    Frontiers in Psychology 01/2015; 6:219. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00219 · 2.80 Impact Factor
  • The American Journal of Medicine 11/2014; DOI:10.1016/j.amjmed.2014.10.042 · 5.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroimaging is ubiquitous; however, neuroimagers seldom investigate the putative impact of posture on brain activity. Whereas participants in most psychological experiments sit upright, many prominent neuroimaging techniques (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)) require participants to lie supine. Such postural discrepancies may hold important implications for brain function in general and for fMRI in particular. We directly investigated the effect of posture on spontaneous brain dynamics by recording scalp electrical activity in four orthostatic conditions (lying supine, inclined at 45°, sitting upright, and standing erect). Here we show that upright versus supine posture increases widespread high-frequency oscillatory activity. Our electroencephalographic findings highlight the importance of posture as a determinant in neuroimaging. When generalizing supine imaging results to ecological human cognition, therefore, cognitive neuroscientists would benefit from considering the influence of posture on brain dynamics.
    Cortex 09/2014; 58. DOI:10.1016/j.cortex.2014.06.014 · 6.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: While most experts agree on the limitations of neuroimaging, the unversed public-and indeed many a scholar-often valorizes brain imaging without heeding its shortcomings. Here we test the boundaries of this phenomenon, which we term neuroenchantment. How much are individuals ready to believe when encountering improbable information through the guise of neuroscience? We introduced participants to a crudely-built mock brain scanner, explaining that the machine would measure neural activity, analyze the data, and then infer the content of complex thoughts. Using a classic magic trick, we crafted an illusion whereby the imaging technology seemed to decipher the internal thoughts of participants. We found that most students-even undergraduates with advanced standing in neuroscience and psychology, who have been taught the shortcomings of neuroimaging-deemed such unlikely technology highly plausible. Our findings highlight the influence neuro-hype wields over critical thinking.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 05/2014; 8:357. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00357 · 2.90 Impact Factor
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    Emma P Cusumano, Amir Raz
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    ABSTRACT: Psychoanalysis proffers a wealth of phenomenological tools to advance the study of consciousness. Techniques for elucidating the structures of subjective life are sorely lacking in the cognitive sciences; as such, experiential reporting techniques must rise to meet both complex theories of brain function and increasingly sophisticated neuroimaging technologies. Analysis may offer valuable methods for bridging the gap between first-person and third-person accounts of the mind. Using both systematic observational approaches alongside unstructured narrative interactions, psychoanalysts help patients articulate their experience and bring unconscious mental contents into awareness. Similar to seasoned meditators or phenomenologists, individuals who have undergone analysis are experts in discerning and describing their subjective experience, thus making them ideal candidates for neurophenomenology. Moreover, analytic techniques may provide a means of guiding untrained experimental participants to greater awareness of their mental continuum, as well as gathering subjective reports about fundamental yet elusive aspects of experience including selfhood, temporality, and inter-subjectivity. Mining psychoanalysis for its methodological innovations provides a fresh turn for the neuropsychoanalysis movement and cognitive science as a whole - showcasing the integrity of analysis alongside the irreducibility of human experience.
    Frontiers in Psychology 04/2014; 5:334. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00334 · 2.80 Impact Factor
  • Amir Raz
    01/2014; 12(1):46-65. DOI:10.1080/15294145.2010.10773630
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    ABSTRACT: Cognitive scientists routinely distinguish between controlled and automatic mental processes. Through learning, practice, and exposure, controlled processes can become automatic; however, whether automatic processes can become deautomatized - recuperated under the purview of control - remains unclear. Here we show that a suggestion derails a deeply ingrained process involving involuntary audiovisual integration. We compared the performance of highly versus less hypnotically suggestible individuals (HSIs versus LSIs) in a classic McGurk paradigm - a perceptual illusion task demonstrating the influence of visual facial movements on auditory speech percepts. Following a posthypnotic suggestion to prioritize auditory input, HSIs but not LSIs manifested fewer illusory auditory perceptions and correctly identified more auditory percepts. Our findings demonstrate that a suggestion deautomatized a ballistic audiovisual process in HSIs. In addition to guiding our knowledge regarding theories and mechanisms of automaticity, the present findings pave the road to a more scientific understanding of top-down effects and multisensory integration.
    Consciousness and Cognition 01/2014; 24C:33-37. DOI:10.1016/j.concog.2013.12.010 · 2.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Most researchers leverage bottom-up suppression to unlock the underlying mechanisms of unconscious processing. However, a top-down approach - for example via hypnotic suggestion - paves the road to experimental innovation and complementary data that afford new scientific insights concerning attention and the unconscious. Drawing from a reliable taxonomy that differentiates subliminal and preconscious processing, we outline how an experimental trajectory that champions top-down suppression techniques, such as those practiced in hypnosis, is uniquely poised to further contextualize and refine our scientific understanding of unconscious processing. Examining subliminal and preconscious methods, we demonstrate how instrumental hypnosis provides a reliable adjunct that supplements contemporary approaches. Specifically, we provide an integrative synthesis of the advantages and shortcomings that accompany a top-down approach to probe the unconscious mind. Our account provides a larger framework for complementing the results from core studies involving prevailing subliminal and preconscious techniques.
    Frontiers in Psychology 01/2014; 5:785. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00785 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hypnosis research binds phenomenology and neuroscience. Here we show how recent evidence probing the impact of hypnosis and suggestion can inform and advance a neurophenomenological approach. In contrast to meditative practices that involve lengthy and intensive training, hypnosis induces profound alterations in subjective experience following just a few words of suggestion. Individuals highly responsive to hypnosis can quickly and effortlessly manifest atypical conscious experiences as well as override deeply entrenched processes. These capacities open new avenues for suspending habitual modes of attention and achieving refined states of meta-awareness. Furthermore, hypnosis research sheds light on the effects of suggestion, expectation, and interpersonal factors beyond the narrow context of hypnotic procedures. Such knowledge may help to further foster phenomenological interviewing methods, improve experiential reports, and elucidate the mechanisms of contemplative practices. Incorporating hypnosis and suggestion into the broader landscape of neurophenomenology, therefore, would likely help bridge subjective experience and third-person approaches to the mind.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 08/2013; 7:469. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00469 · 2.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Negative priming (NP), slowing down of the response for target stimuli that have been previously exposed, but ignored, has been reported in multiple psychological paradigms including the Stroop task. Although NP likely results from the interplay of selective attention, episodic memory retrieval, working memory, and inhibition mechanisms, a comprehensive theoretical account of NP is currently unavailable. This lacuna may result from the complexity of stimuli combinations in NP. Thus, we aimed to investigate the presence of different degrees of the NP effect according to prime-probe combinations within a classic Stroop task. We recorded reaction times (RTs) from 66 healthy participants during Stroop task performance and examined three different NP subtypes, defined according to the type of the Stroop probe in prime-probe pairs. Our findings show significant RT differences among NP subtypes that are putatively due to the presence of differential disinhibition, i.e., release from inhibition. Among the several potential origins for differential subtypes of NP, we investigated the involvement of selective attention and/or working memory using a parallel distributed processing (PDP) model (employing selective attention only) and a modified PDP model with working memory (PDP-WM, employing both selective attention and working memory). Our findings demonstrate that, unlike the conventional PDP model, the PDP-WM successfully simulates different levels of NP effects that closely follow the behavioral data. This outcome suggests that working memory engages in the re-accumulation of the evidence for target response and induces differential NP effects. Our computational model complements earlier efforts and may pave the road to further insights into an integrated theoretical account of complex NP effects.
    Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience 01/2013; 7:166. DOI:10.3389/fncom.2013.00166 · 2.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU) is one of the most costly allergic conditions challenging physicians as well as patients and their families. Despite evident lacunae in the understanding of the pathogenesis, at least some findings suggest that psychosocial factors likely contribute to the development and exacerbation of CSU. We aim to assess the contribution of psychological factors to CSU. METHODS: Systematic search of PubMed and OVID/Medline databases was conducted from 1 January 1935 to 1 January 2012. Studies selected include original research in English, Spanish and French exploring the association between CSU and psychosocial factors. Two investigators independently reviewed all titles and abstracts to identify potentially relevant articles and resolved discrepancies by repeated review and discussion and arbitration of a third reviewer. Quality of systematic reviews and meta-analyses was assessed using a measure based on the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale and psychological conditions of CSU patients. RESULTS: We identified 114 eligible studies spanning 77 years and featuring 17 reviews, 67 studies related to neither CSU nor psychosocial factors, and eight studies that provided either no prevalence estimates or insufficient sample size. Pooling effect sizes using random effects, analyses revealed that, despite large heterogeneity (I(2) of 97.60%), psychosocial factors had a prevalence of 46.09% (95% confidence interval, 44.01%, 48.08%). CONCLUSION: Future research needs to better establish the contribution of psychosocial factors to the pathogenesis and exacerbation of CSU, and explore the possible benefit of behavioural interventions to the development of new management strategies.
    Allergy 11/2012; 68(2). DOI:10.1111/all.12068 · 6.00 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cognitive scientists typically classify cognitive processes as either controlled or automatic. Whereas controlled processes are slow and effortful, automatic processes are fast and involuntary. Over the past decade, we have propelled a research trajectory investigating how top-down influence in the form of suggestion can allow individuals to modulate the automaticity of cognitive processes. Here we present an overarching array of converging findings that collectively indicate that certain individuals can derail involuntary processes, such as reading, by "unringing" the proverbial bell. We examine replications of these effects from both our own laboratory and independent groups, and extend our Stroop findings to several other well-established automatic paradigms, including the McGurk effect. We thus demonstrate how, in the case of highly suggestible individuals, suggestion seems to wield control over a process that is likely even more automatic than the Stroop effect. Finally, we present findings from two novel experimental paradigms exploring the potential of shifting automaticity in the opposite direction - i.e., transforming, without practice, a controlled task into one that is automatic. Drawing on related evidence from the neuroscience of contemplative practices, we discuss how these findings pave the road to a more scientific understanding of voluntary control and automaticity, and expound on their possible experimental and therapeutic applications.
    Cortex 09/2012; DOI:10.1016/j.cortex.2012.08.007 · 6.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Drawing on psychological science, magic provides a unique perspective on applied cognition. Only sparse systematic research, however, documents the thought processes associated with viewing magic tricks. With responses from over 1000 participants, here, we show how individuals construe a classic magic routine wherein a performer appears to vanish a pen. Thirty-four percent of participants correctly identified the key moment of the disappearance with only 11% thereof knowing what actions the magician actually performed to achieve the effect. Our collective findings support what magicians have known for a long time: knowing when a critical maneuver occurs hardly reveals the associated modus operandi. In line with a modern theory of attention, we discuss our results and highlight the interaction between the when and where attention modules as a necessary component of applied cognition in ecological settings. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    Applied Cognitive Psychology 07/2012; 26(4). DOI:10.1002/acp.2825 · 1.67 Impact Factor
  • Amir Raz
    Consciousness and Cognition 06/2012; 21(3):1591-4. DOI:10.1016/j.concog.2012.05.010 · 2.31 Impact Factor
  • Amir Raz
    Consciousness and Cognition 06/2012; 21(3):1595-8. DOI:10.1016/j.concog.2012.05.011 · 2.31 Impact Factor
  • Consciousness and Cognition 06/2012; 21(3):1586-90. DOI:10.1016/j.concog.2012.05.009 · 2.31 Impact Factor
  • Consciousness and Cognition 06/2012; 21(3):1582-5. DOI:10.1016/j.concog.2012.05.008 · 2.31 Impact Factor
  • Consciousness and Cognition 06/2012; 21(3):1579-81. DOI:10.1016/j.concog.2012.05.007 · 2.31 Impact Factor
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    Cory S Harris, Amir Raz
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    ABSTRACT: Increasingly a focus of research as well as media reports and online forums, the use of placebos in clinical medicine extends beyond sugar pills and saline injections. Physician surveys conducted in various countries invariably report that placebos are routinely used clinically, impure placebos more frequently than the pure ones, and that physicians consider them to be of legitimate therapeutic value. Inconsistent study methodologies and physician conceptualisations of placebos may complicate the interpretation of survey data, but hardly negate the valuable insights these research findings provide. Because impure placebos are often not recognised as such by practitioners, they remain at the fringe of many placebo-related debates, hence quietly absent from discussions concerning policy and regulation. The apparent popularity of impure placebos used in clinical practice thus presents unresolved ethical concerns and should direct future discussion and research.
    Journal of medical ethics 05/2012; 38(7):406-7. DOI:10.1136/medethics-2012-100695 · 1.69 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
238.20 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2007–2015
    • McGill University
      • • Department of Psychiatry
      • • Department of Psychology
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  • 2014
    • Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  • 2012
    • McGill University Health Centre
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  • 2004–2010
    • New York State Psychiatric Institute
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 2007–2008
    • Vancouver Coastal Health
      Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2004–2008
    • Columbia University
      • Department of Psychiatry
      New York, New York, United States
  • 2006
    • CUNY Graduate Center
      New York, New York, United States
  • 2003–2005
    • Weill Cornell Medical College
      • Department of Psychiatry
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 2002
    • Cornell University
      • Department of Psychiatry
      Ithaca, New York, United States