The neurophenomenology of neutral hypnosis
Cardeña E., Jönsson P., Terhune DB., Marcusson-Clavertz D.
Introduction: After a hypnotic induction, medium and highly hypnotizable individuals often report spontaneous alterations in various dimensions of consciousness. Few studies investigating these experiences have controlled for the inherent demands of specific hypnotic suggestions and fewer still have considered their dynamic properties and neural correlates. Methods: We adopted a neurophenomenological approach to investigate neutral hypnosis, which involves no specific suggestion other than to go into hypnosis, with 37 individuals of high, medium, and low hypnotizability (Highs, Mediums, and Lows). Their reports of depth and spontaneous experience at baseline, following a hypnotic induction, and then after multiple rest periods were analyzed and related to EEG frequency band power and global functional connectivity. Results: Hypnotizability was marginally associated with lower global functional connectivity during hypnosis. Perceived hypnotic depth increased substantially after the induction especially among Highs and then Mediums, but remained almost unchanged among Lows. In the sample as a whole, depth correlated moderately to strongly with power and/or power heterogeneity for the fast EEG frequencies of beta2, beta3, and gamma, but independently only among Highs. The spontaneous phenomenology of Lows referred primarily to the ongoing experiment and everyday concerns, those of Mediums to vestibular and other bodily experiences, and those of Highs to imagery and positive affect/exceptional experiences. The latter two phenomena were associated with lower global functional connectivity during hypnosis. Imagery correlated positively with gamma power heterogeneity and negatively with alpha1 power heterogeneity. Generally, the pattern of correlations for the Highs was the opposite of that for the Lows. Conclusions: Experienced hypnotic depth and spontaneous phenomena following a neutral hypnotic induction vary as a function of hypnotizability and are related to global functional connectivity and EEG band wave activity. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.