Amir Raz

McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

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Publications (95)293.57 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Neurofeedback, one of the primary examples of self-regulation, designates a collection of techniques that train the brain and help to improve its function. Since coming on the scene in the 1960s, electroencephalography-neurofeedback has become a treatment vehicle for a host of mental disorders; however, its clinical effectiveness remains controversial. Modern imaging technologies of the living human brain (e.g., real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging) and increasingly rigorous research protocols that utilize such methodologies begin to shed light on the underlying mechanisms that may facilitate more effective clinical applications. In this paper we focus on recent technological advances in the field of human brain imaging and discuss how these modern methods may influence the field of neurofeedback. Toward this end, we outline the state of the evidence and sketch out future directions to further explore the potential merits of this contentious therapeutic prospect.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Cortex
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    ABSTRACT: Neurofeedback, one of the primary examples of self-regulation, designates a collection of techniques that train the brain and help to improve its function. Since coming on the scene in the 1960s, electroencephalography-neurofeedback has become a treatment vehicle for a host of mental disorders; however, its clinical effectiveness remains controversial. Modern imaging technologies of the living human brain (e.g., real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging) and increasingly rigorous research protocols that utilize such methodologies begin to shed light on the underlying mechanisms that may facilitate more effective clinical applications. In this paper we focus on recent technological advances in the field of human brain imaging and discuss how these modern methods may influence the field of neurofeedback. Toward this end, we outline the state of the evidence and sketch out future directions to further explore the potential merits of this contentious therapeutic prospect.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Cortex
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    ABSTRACT: Neurofeedback, one of the primary examples of self-regulation, designates a collection of techniques that train the brain and help to improve its function. Since coming on the scene in the 1960s, electroencephalography-neurofeedback has become a treatment vehicle for a host of mental disorders; however, its clinical effectiveness remains controversial. Modern imaging technologies of the living human brain (e.g., real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging) and increasingly rigorous research protocols that utilize such methodologies begin to shed light on the underlying mechanisms that may facilitate more effective clinical applications. In this paper we focus on recent technological advances in the field of human brain imaging and discuss how these modern methods may influence the field of neurofeedback. Toward this end, we outline the state of the evidence and sketch out future directions to further explore the potential merits of this contentious therapeutic prospect.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Cortex
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    ABSTRACT: Forcing occurs when a magician influences the audience's decisions without their awareness. To investigate the mechanisms behind this effect, we examined several stimulus and personality predictors. In Study 1, a magician flipped through a deck of playing cards while participants were asked to choose one. Although the magician could influence the choice almost every time (98%), relatively few (9%) noticed this influence. In Study 2, participants observed rapid series of cards on a computer, with one target card shown longer than the rest. We expected people would tend to choose this card without noticing that it was shown longest. Both stimulus and personality factors predicted the choice of card, depending on whether the influence was noticed. These results show that combining real-world and laboratory research can be a powerful way to study magic and can provide new methods to study the feeling of free will. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015 · Consciousness and Cognition
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Physicians around the world report to using placebos in a variety of situations and with varying degrees of frequency. Inconsistent methodologies, however, complicate interpretation and prevent direct comparisons across studies. While US- and Canada-based physicians share similar professional standards, Canada harbours a less-litigious universal healthcare model with no formal placebo-related policy-factors that may impact how physicians view and use placebos. Methods: To compare American and Canadian data, we circulated an online survey to academic physicians practicing in Canada, collected anonymous responses, and extracted those of internists and rheumatologists for comparison to US data obtained through parallel methodologies. Results: Whereas our data show overall concordance across the border-from definitions to ethical limitations and therapeutic potential-differences between American- and Canadian-based placebo practices merit acknowledgement. For example, compared to 45%-80% among US-based respondents, only 23±7% of Canada-based respondents reported using placebos in clinical practice. However, 79±7% of Canada-respondents-a figure comparable to US data-professed to prescribing at least one form of treatment without proven or expected efficacy. Placebo interventions including unwarranted vitamins and herbal supplements (impure placebos) as well as sugar pills and saline injections (pure placebos) appear more common in Canada, where more doctors described placebos as "placebos" (rather than "medications") and used them as a "diagnostic" tool (rather than a means of placating patient demands for treatment). Interpretation: Cross-border variation in the use of clinical placebos appears minor despite substantial differences in health care delivery system, malpractice climate, and placebo-related policy. The prevalence of impure placebos in both Canadian and US clinics raises ethical and practical questions currently unaddressed by policy and warranting investigation.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2015 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: Neurofeedback, one of the primary examples of self-regulation, designates a collection of techniques that train the brain and help to improve its function. Since coming on the scene in the 1960s, electroencephalography-neurofeedback has become a treatment vehicle for a host of mental disorders; however, its clinical effectiveness remains controversial. Modern imaging technologies of the living human brain (e.g., real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging) and increasingly rigorous research protocols that utilize such methodologies begin to shed light on the underlying mechanisms that may facilitate more effective clinical applications. In this paper we focus on recent technological advances in the field of human brain imaging and discuss how these modern methods may influence the field of neurofeedback. Toward this end, we outline the state of the evidence and sketch out future directions to further explore the potential merits of this contentious therapeutic prospect.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Cortex
  • Claire M Champigny · Amir Raz
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    ABSTRACT: Hypnotic suggestibility-loosely termed hypnotizability-is difficult to assess across cultures. Investigators often use translated research instruments to guide their inquiry in disparate geographic locations. Present-day hypnosis researchers rely heavily on two primary scales that are more than half a century old: the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale: Form C (SHSS:C) (Weitzenhoffer & Hilgard, 1959) and the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility: Form A (HGSHS:A) (Shor & Orne, 1962). Scholars typically translate these scales to measure hypnotizability transculturally. This approach, however, operates under the specious assumption that the concept of hypnotizability is largely monolithic or universal across cultures. Whereas translations likely conserve the linguistic content, they may arguably imply different cultural meanings and historical subtexts. Whereas social scientists acknowledge the importance of qualitative and phenomenological accounts in the study of altered consciousness, including suggestibility, researchers interested in hypnotizability consider the impact of findings from anthropology and ethnography too little. Clinicians and scholars of hypnosis would stand to benefit from incorporating the insights afforded by transcultural research in the overarching investigation of a concept as nuanced as hypnotizability.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · The American journal of clinical hypnosis
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroimaging researchers tacitly assume that body-position scantily affects neural activity. However, whereas participants in most psychological experiments sit upright, many modern neuroimaging techniques (e.g., fMRI) require participants to lie supine. Sparse findings from electroencephalography and positron emission tomography suggest that body position influences cognitive processes and neural activity. Here we leverage multi-postural magnetoencephalography (MEG) to further unravel how physical stance alters baseline brain activity. We present resting-state MEG data from 12 healthy participants in three orthostatic conditions (i.e., lying supine, reclined at 45°, and sitting upright). Our findings demonstrate that upright, compared to reclined or supine, posture increases left-hemisphere high-frequency oscillatory activity over common speech areas. This proof-of-concept experiment establishes the feasibility of using MEG to examine the influence of posture on brain dynamics. We highlight the advantages and methodological challenges inherent to this approach and lay the foundation for future studies to further investigate this important, albeit little-acknowledged, procedural caveat.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Brain Imaging and Behavior
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    ABSTRACT: Neurofeedback draws on multiple techniques that propel both healthy and patient populations to self-regulate neural activity. Since the 1970s, numerous accounts have promoted electroencephalography-neurofeedback as a viable treatment for a host of mental disorders. Today, while the number of health care providers referring patients to neurofeedback practitioners increases steadily, substantial methodological and conceptual caveats continue to pervade empirical reports. And yet, nascent imaging technologies (e.g., real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging) and increasingly rigorous protocols are paving the road towards more effective applications and a better scientific understanding of the underlying mechanisms. Here, we outline common neurofeedback methods, illuminate the tenuous state of the evidence, and sketch out future directions to further unravel the potential merits of this contentious therapeutic prospect. © 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel.
    Full-text · Article · May 2015 · Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics
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    Jay A Olson · Irina Demacheva · Amir Raz
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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.
    Preview · Article · Mar 2015 · Frontiers in Psychology
  • 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.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2015 · The American journal of clinical hypnosis
  • Michael Lifshitz · Amir Raz

    No preview · Article · Jan 2015

  • No preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice

  • No preview · Article · Nov 2014 · The American Journal of Medicine
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Cortex
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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.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2014 · Frontiers in Psychology
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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.
    Preview · Article · May 2014 · Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
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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.
    Preview · Article · Apr 2014 · Frontiers in Psychology
  • Amir Raz

    No preview · Article · Jan 2014
  • Amir Raz · Joanna B. Wolfson
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    ABSTRACT: Contemporary studies in the cognitive neuroscience of attention and suggestion shed new light on psychoanalytic concepts of yore. Findings from neuroimaging studies, for example, seem to revive the notion of dynamic lesions—focal brain changes undetectable by anatomical scrutiny. With technologies such as brain imaging and reversible brain lesion, some findings from modern biological psychiatry seem to converge with nineteenth-century psychiatry, reminiscent of the old masters. In particular, suggestion has been shown to modulate specific neural activity in the human brain. Here we show that “behavioral lesions”—the influence that words exert on focal brain activity—may constitute the twenty-first-century appellation of “dynamic lesions.” While recent research results involving suggestion seem to partially support Freudian notions, correlating psychoanalysis with its brain substrates remains difficult. We elucidate the incipient role of cognitive neuroscience, including the relative merits and inherent limitations of imaging the living human brain, in explaining psychoanalytic concepts.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2014

Publication Stats

3k Citations
293.57 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2007-2015
    • McGill University
      • • Department of Psychiatry
      • • Department of Psychology
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
    • Vancouver Coastal Health
      Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2014
    • Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  • 2008-2014
    • Jewish General Hospital
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  • 2003-2013
    • Columbia University
      • Department of Psychiatry
      New York, New York, United States
  • 2004-2010
    • New York State Psychiatric Institute
      • Anxiety Disorders Clinic
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 2002-2005
    • Weill Cornell Medical College
      • Department of Psychiatry
      New York City, New York, United States
    • Cornell University
      • Department of Psychiatry
      Ithaca, New York, United States