The Neuroscience of Hypnosis

There is a lot of science behind hypnosis but many people are confused as to what hypnosis really is. Alternative therapies like hypnosis are becoming much more accepted and hypnosis can be used for a lot more than just weight loss or smoking cessation. Hypnosis has been around for hundreds of years dating as far back as ancient Egypt and it is really nothing more than a state of mind or a heightened state of consciousness, in which one if more susceptible to suggestion.

Hypnosis cannot only be used for typical things like weight loss and stop smoking, it can also be used to help people overcome anxiety and fear. Despite what you may believe and what you may have been told, hypnosis is not sleep. Hypnosis has been shown to be a very distinct form of consciousness. Neuroscience is shedding a whole new light on the magic and mystery of hypnosis and brainwave scans have shown that.

Hypnosis in NYC for Weight Loss

Many large cities like New York City for example have hundreds of practitioners who use hypnosis as an alternative therapy. More and more cities and more and doctors are using hypnosis as a very valuable tool to help their clients overcome issues they have spent a lifetime fighting.

Brain images can be extremely valuable when it comes to looking at the neuroscience of hypnosis. Brain imaging studies have been very effective in demonstrating the effects of hypnosis and the effects of hypnotic suggestions.

The fact is that hypnosis is a real phenomenon and it is increasingly becoming a very useful tool for both psychologists and neuroscientists because it helps them gain new insights into the mental processes of the brain. Neuroscientists can also use brain-imagining technology to help better understand certain medical conditions and unexplained neurological disorders.

Brainwave States

Our minds go in and out of different brainwave states on a consistent basis. The Alpha brainwave state is the state most often accessed during hypnotic trance. The Beta brainwave state is the dominant state of mind than many of us are in during the course of our day. The Beta brainwave state typically corresponds to a frequency level of about 12 to 30 Hz. Beta is also known as the waking state.

The Alpha brainwave state operates at about 7 to 12 Hz, which is a little slower than the Beta state. The Alpha brainwave state is the state most often associated with a very relaxed state of mind. Alpha is also the state of mind you are in when you are extremely relaxed, inwardly focused or engaged in an activity like deep breathing or meditating.

The Theta brainwave state is even slower than Alpha and it operates at around 3 to 7 Hz. Theta is a very deep state of relaxation, light sleep and even dreaming and it is the state of mind most often accessed during meditation and deep levels of hypnosis.

One of the deepest and slowest brainwave states is Delta and it occurs around 1 to 3HZ. Delta brainwave states typically occur in very deep sleep, and this level of mind is not typically accessed during hypnosis.

The EEG or Electroencephalogram

The EEG or Electroencephalogram is a kind of test that actually measures and then records the various electrical activity of the brain. The process involves attaching various electrodes or sensors to the head attached by wires and connected to a computer. The computer then records the brain and the activity or brainwave associated with it.

The EEG is typically used to diagnose problems such as epilepsy, coma, or even sleep disorders so that technicians can monitor the brains activity. EEG’s are increasingly being used as part of the hypnotic process to help clients understand more about the different brainwave states one goes in and out of during the hypnotic trance.

The truth is that there are many different opinions and schools of thought when it comes to the art and science of hypnosis. There are some who claim hypnosis is not a real art, and some who state that hypnosis borders on the occult. While it is clear that hypnotic inductions promote muscle relaxation and heightened suggestibility, it has been difficult to prove in terms of science, at least until now.

Milling (2008) looked at several studies that utilized various brain imagining technologies such as neuroimaging techniques like positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging.

One of those studies suggested that hypnotic suggestions actually caused “increased blood flow to the frontal cortices, as well as the medial and lateral posterior parietal cortices” (Milling, p. 173). Studies like this are promising and show that science can indeed begin to postulate that hypnosis does in fact altar the chemistry of the brain.

Fingelkurts, Fingelkurts, Kallio & Reveonssuo (2007) have shown that hypnosis actually induces a changed composition in brain oscillations in EEG studies with the EEG during hypnosis differing from the non-hypnotic state, specifically in the frontal lobe of the brain.

When it comes down to it, researchers have made great strides in looking at the effectiveness of hypnosis, and with more and more interest in the field, the future looks bright.

It has been shown that both meditation and hypnosis reduce stress “by activating the left prefrontal lobe of the brain, which is linked to positive emotions and self-control, as well as the amygdala, which has been called the alarm center of the brain.” (Horowitz, 2006, p. 90).  Hypnosis actually differs from meditation by the active pursuant of change post-hypnotically (Horowitz). In essence, hypnosis works beyond the actual session, which is of course very positive.  According to Horowitz the model of brain function during a process such as hypnosis shows that certain neurological pathways occur between conscious thought processing and unconscious activity.

Thanks to the art and science of neuroimaging, hypnosis has made great strides in the last several years. It is becoming much more widely recognized in terms of science and it is gaining more and more credibility in fields such as neuroscience with many researchers pursuing studies utilizing technologies like brain imaging.

Alladin (1988) identified more than a dozen hypnotic techniques that can actually be used for the treatment of chronic migraines. That study revealed that direct hypnotic suggestion of symptom removal has been shown to be effective in the reduction of frequency and intensity of migraine attacks during a ten-week treatment course and a thirteen-month follow-up.

These types of examples are very promising and with more research, hypnosis will be used more and more not only in the treatment of things like stop smoking, anxiety, and the treatment of fear and phobia, but also for more serious concerns and health conditions.


Alladin, A. (1988). “Hypnosis in the Treatment of Severe Chronic
Migraine. In M. Heap (ed.), Hypnosis: Current clinical, Experimental and Forensic Practices. London: Croom Helm.    pp. 159-166.

Fingelkurts, A., Fingelkurts, A., Kallio, S., & Revonsuo, A. (2007).
Hypnosis induces a changed composition of brain oscillations in EEG: a case study. Contemporary Hypnosis (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)24(1), 3-18.

Horowitz, S. (2006). Realizing the benefits of hypnosis: clinical research and medical   applications. Alternative & Complementary Therapies12(2), 86-92.

Milling, L. S. (2008). Recent developments in the study of hypnotic pain reduction: a new golden era of research? Contemporary Hypnosis (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)25(3/4), 165-  177. doi:10.1002/ch.362

Dr. Kazi Anam is a leading certified consulting hypnotist, best-selling author, pharmacist, health coach, researcher, executive life coach and a motivational speaker. Anam has been helping clients achieve their goals for over 25 years.

His experience with hypnosis started as a college student. He utilized the amazing principles of hypnosis to stay at the top of his class and subsequently became a very successful professional and entrepreneur.

Dr. Kazi Anam, CEO and founder of Hypnosis Leader Inc., was recently seen on NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX network affiliates around the country as an expert guest on the America's PremierExperts® TV show.

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