Hypnosis Decouples Conflict Monitoring and Control Functions of the Frontal Lobe

Functional MRI Research Center, Columbia University, Neurological Institute Box 108, 710 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.36). 11/2005; 27(4):969-78. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.05.002
Source: PubMed


Hypnosis can profoundly alter sensory awareness and cognitive processing. While the cognitive and behavioral phenomena associated with hypnosis have long been thought to relate to attentional processes, the neural mechanisms underlying susceptibility to hypnotic induction and the hypnotic condition are poorly understood. Here, we tested the proposal that highly hypnotizable individuals are particularly adept at focusing attention at baseline, but that their attentional control is compromised following hypnosis due to a decoupling between conflict monitoring and cognitive control processes of the frontal lobe. Employing event-related fMRI and EEG coherence measures, we compared conflict-related neural activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and control-related activity in the lateral frontal cortex (LFC) during Stroop task performance between participants of low and high hypnotic susceptibility, at baseline and after hypnotic induction. The fMRI data revealed that conflict-related ACC activity interacted with hypnosis and hypnotic susceptibility, in that highly susceptible participants displayed increased conflict-related neural activity in the hypnosis condition compared to baseline, as well as with respect to subjects with low susceptibility. Cognitive-control-related LFC activity, on the other hand, did not differ between groups and conditions. These data were complemented by a decrease in functional connectivity (EEG gamma band coherence) between frontal midline and left lateral scalp sites in highly susceptible subjects after hypnosis. These results suggest that individual differences in hypnotic susceptibility are linked with the efficiency of the frontal attention system, and that the hypnotized condition is characterized by a functional dissociation of conflict monitoring and cognitive control processes.

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Available from: Tobias Egner
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    • "Theoretical models of hypnosis have traditionally emphasized the importance of attentional control processes in accounting for hypnotic phenomena and susceptibility to hypnosis. However, behavioral evidence for differential attentional functioning in highs vs lows have remained controversial (Egner et al., 2005; Rubichi et al., 2005; Iani et al., 2009), and neurophysiological models postulating a crucial involvement of the frontal lobes in mediating both hypnosis and hypnotic susceptibility (Gruzelier, 1998) are still largely speculative. A critical role of ACC has often been underscored (Egner and Raz, 2007), whereas other components of the attention control system were generally ignored. "
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    ABSTRACT: Unlabelled: Theoretical models of hypnosis have emphasized the importance of attentional processes in accounting for hypnotic phenomena but their exact nature and brain substrates remain unresolved. Individuals vary in their susceptibility to hypnosis, a variability often attributed to differences in attentional functioning such as greater ability to filter irrelevant information and inhibit prepotent responses. However, behavioral studies of attentional performance outside the hypnotic state have provided conflicting results. We used fMRI to investigate the recruitment of attentional networks during a modified flanker task in High and Low hypnotizable participants. The task was performed in a normal (no hypnotized) state. While behavioral performance did not reliably differ between groups, components of the fronto-parietal executive network implicated in monitoring (anterior cingulate cortex; ACC), adjustment (lateral prefrontal cortex; latPFC), and implementation of attentional control (intraparietal sulcus; IPS) were differently activated depending on the hypnotizability of the subjects: the right inferior frontal gyrus (rIFG) was more recruited, whereas IPS and ACC were less recruited by High susceptible individuals compared to Low. Our results demonstrate that susceptibility to hypnosis is associated with particular executive control capabilities allowing efficient attentional focusing, and point to specific neural substrates in right prefrontal cortex. Significance statement: We demonstrated that outside hypnosis, low hypnotizable subjects recruited more parietal cortex and anterior cingulate regions during selective attention conditions suggesting a better detection and implementation of conflict. However, outside hypnosis the right inferior frontal gyrus (rIFG) was more recruited by highly hypnotizable subjects during selective attention conditions suggesting a better control of conflict. Furthermore, in highly hypnotizable subjects this region was more connected to the default mode network suggesting a tight dialogue between internally and externally driven processes that may permit higher flexibility in attention and underlie a greater ability to dissociate.
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    • "Hypnosis can be used as an adjunct treatment for pain (Montgomery et al., 2002), depression (Alladin and Alibhai, 2007), weight loss (Kirsch et al., 1995, 1996), irritable bowel syndrome (Whitehead, 2006; Wilson et al., 2006), and it can also be used to study psychological phenomena (Szechtman et al., 1998; Barnier, 2002; Egner et al., 2005; O'Connor et al., 2008). It is not effective for everyone, however, and certain individuals appear to respond favourably to hypnosis and hypnotic suggestions while others are unaffected (Kirsch and Braffman, 2001). "
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    ABSTRACT: This study explores whether self-reported depth of hypnosis and hypnotic suggestibility are associated with individual differences in neuroanatomy and/or levels of functional connectivity. Twenty-nine people varying in suggestibility were recruited and underwent structural, and after a hypnotic induction, functional magnetic resonance imaging at rest. We used voxel-based morphometry to assess the correlation of grey matter (GM) and white matter (WM) against the independent variables: depth of hypnosis, level of relaxation and hypnotic suggestibility. Functional networks identified with independent components analysis were regressed with the independent variables. Hypnotic depth ratings were positively correlated with GM volume in the frontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Hypnotic suggestibility was positively correlated with GM volume in the left temporal-occipital cortex. Relaxation ratings did not correlate significantly with GM volume and none of the independent variables correlated with regional WM volume measures. Self-reported deeper levels of hypnosis were associated with less connectivity within the anterior default mode network. Taken together, the results suggest that the greater GM volume in the medial frontal cortex and ACC, and lower connectivity in the DMN during hypnosis facilitate experiences of greater hypnotic depth. The patterns of results suggest that hypnotic depth and hypnotic suggestibility should not be considered synonyms. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2014 · Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging
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    • "For example, some studies show that hypnosis (as a state of consciousness) modulates specific brain regions (Rainville et al., 2002) and presents very specific eye movement patterns that may not be achieved during wakefulness (Kallio et al., 2011). Hypnotic suggestion has been shown to dissociate systems in charge of cognitive control and attentional conflict monitoring (Egner et al., 2005), while neutral hypnosis (i.e., the induction of hypnosis without further suggestions) has shown to decrease brain activity in the anterior portion of the default-mode network in high suggestible participants, but not in low suggestible participants (McGeown et al., 2009). In fact, neutral hypnosis has also shown to induce changes in several cortical regions and its activity patterns, including changes in functional connectivity (Fingelkurts et al., 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934) did not only contribute to neurobiology and neurohistology. At the end of the 19th century, he published one of the first clinical reports on the employment of hypnotic suggestion to induce analgesia (hypnoanalgesia) in order to relieve pain in childbirth. Today, the clinical application of hypnoanalgesia is considered an effective technique for the treatment of pain in medicine, dentistry, and psychology. However, the knowledge we have today on the neural and cognitive underpinnings of hypnotic suggestion has increased dramatically since Cajal's times. Here we review the main contributions of Cajal to hypnoanalgesia and the current knowledge we have about hypnoanalgesia from neural and cognitive perspectives.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Frontiers in Psychology
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