fMRI brain scans show marked differences between the Placebo effect and Hypnosis

The placebo effect is something most of us are familiar with. The idea that the presence of strong expectations can make us believe a physiological change has occurred even in the absence of any physical change such as a drug or a cure.

Although there has been some debate about whether Hypnosis works similarly to a Placebo, there are studies that have used Fmri scanners that show a marked difference between the Placebo effect and the use of Hypnosis.


Here is an excerpt from a paper found on the EFPSA webite entitled

"Brain activity during pain relief using hypnosis and placebo treatments: A literature review"

by Svetlana Kirjanen at the University of Helsinki, Finland-

For any readers interested in learning more about this study please Follow this link to read the article in its entirely

"the evidence gathered so far shows that there are also major differences in the brain activity between hypnosis and placebo effects. During the placebo treatment decreased pain ratings are associated with functional changes in several parts of the limbic system, such as amygdala, hypothalamus and hippocampus, which are known to participate in memory, emotions and autonomic processes (Bingel et al., 2006; Craggs et al., 2008; Kong et al., 2006; Scott et al., 2008; Wager et al., 2004; Zubieta et al., 2009) as well as in the PAG (Bingel et al., 2006; Scott et al., 2008; Wager et al., 2004; Zubieta et al., 2009) and the nucleus accumbens known to be involved in craving (Scott et al., 2008; Zubieta et al., 2005; Zubieta et al., 2009). Instead, hypnotic pain relief causes changes of activity in the occipital areas concerned with imagery processing (Faymonville et al., 2000; Rainville et al., 1999) and basal ganglia which take part for example in the voluntary movement regulation (Faymonville et al., 2000; Faymonville et al., 2003; Vandenhuyse et al., 2009)."

"Based on these results it can be concluded that the analgesic effect which treatment with hypnosis may have on acute produced pain is probably more than just placebo effect in terms of brain functionality. This supports the previous result according to which placebo and hypnosis are different processes of top-down regulation (McGlashan et al., 1969)."