In a new and fascinating study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers examined the use of suggestions in hypnosis (i.e., following a formal induction procedure) to reduce pain in 13 fibromyalgia patients compared to the effects of suggestions to reduce experimentally induced heat pain in 15 healthy subjects.
Suggestions were delivered before and after hypnotic induction with blood oxygen level–dependent (BOLD) activity measured concurrently.
Across both groups, suggestion produced substantial changes in pain report. All changes were greater after induction.
The researchers reported that, “Based on behavioral report alone, the mechanism of suggestion could be interpreted as largely similar regardless of the induction or type of pain experience.
The functional magnetic resonance imaging data, however, demonstrated larger changes in brain activity after induction and a radically different pattern of brain activity for clinical pain compared with experimental pain.
These findings imply that induction has an important effect on underlying neural activity mediating the effects of suggestion, and the mechanism of suggestion in patients altering clinical pain differs from that in controls altering experimental pain.”