Image depicting Hypnosis A new study has revealed hypnosis. It can actually change the way the brain works.

Researchers have found that when hypnosis is used to make people forget, it produces measurable changes in the brain which suggest that the effects are real and not simply people letting go of themselves.

According to lead researcher Professor Yadin Dudai, the insights into memory suppression and recall will help to understand the mechanisms underlying some forms of amnesia, along with “how we suppress distressing memories or things we would rather not dwell upon”.

In fact, Prof Dudai and his colleagues at The Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel came to the conclusion after analyzing the effects of hypnosis on two groups of volunteers – those who were susceptible to hypnotic suggestions and those who were not – after they had shown a documentary depicting a day in the life of a young woman.

After a week, the participants were placed in a brain scanner. They were then induced into a hypnotic state, and given a posthypnotic suggestion to forget the movie, along with a reversibility cue that would restore the memory.

The researchers tested the subjects for their recall after they had come out of the hypnotic state. They then gave the participants the reversibility cue, and tested their recall again. A compared to the hypnosis-non-susceptible group, the hypnosis-susceptible group showed reduced recall of the movie.

When the researchers analyzed brain scans of the subjects, they found distinctive differences in specific brain areas – namely, occipital, temporal, and prefrontal areas – among participants in the two groups.

“The surprise for us was that activity was raised during memory suppression in one specific region in the frontal cortex,” the Telegraph quoted Dudai as saying. In effect, he added, it probably told the other brain regions “don’t even think about retrieving that memory”.

“The one thing we can say for sure is that hypnotism worked under the conditions we used,” said Dudai, adding that the findings were different from those seen in people who attempted to deceive. “We are therefore highly confident that this is not an artifact,” he added.

The researchers believe that their insights into memory suppression and recall may help understand the mechanisms underlying some forms of amnesia, besides explaining how people suppress distressing memories or things.

However, study co-author Avi Mendelsohn admitted that further studies were required to determine whether the new findings gave insights into how the brain stores memory.