Aug 16, 2013

Neuroscience and Hypnosis – Can They Collaborate?

Professor Ramachandran of San Diego University has a wealth of experience and knowledge in neuroscience and has spoken several times at the TED Conference.  I find his work so fascinating because what he is discovering and bringing to light about the human brain brings hypnosis out of the realms of the scary, fearful, and misunderstood.  For instance, he and his colleagues have developed a way to have 65,000 check points on a live human brain, without being invasive.  With these 65,000 points, patterns of thought can be seen through the lighting-up of specific points.  How can this be useful?  Professor Ramachandran has successfully helped patients in pain to redirect their thoughts so that their pain subsides or disappears.  Amazing, to say the least!  Physical pain ceases to exist just through changing the thinking of the person.  That’s what I do as a Master Hypnotist.

Professor Ramachandran also devised a unique way to help people who experience ‘Phantom Limb’.  This is where a body part has been removed, yet the person continues to ‘feel’ it.  It may be painful, it may be a cramping feeling, but they feel it even though it’s no longer there.  They know it intellectually, but they haven’t emotionally let it go.  Professor Ramachandran uses what he calls a “Mirror Box” to help his patients get over the phantom limb conundrum.  Here’s how it works:  He has the person position themselves so that the non-injured side reflected in the mirror, thus giving an illusion of function in a missing or injured side.  When the person ‘sees’ their limb that has been removed, there is a clear psychological and physiological reaction.  When they move the non-injured limb which appears to be the amputated limb, it is as if the amputated limb is moving!  If the person has been experiencing pain, or some other ‘feeling’ in the phantom limb, it ceases for the time they ‘see’ it in the mirror.  They know intellectually that it isn’t the amputated limb, but the psychological effect it tremendous.  Once a person has practiced using the Mirror Box (called Mirror Therapy or MT) for several days, the ‘feeling’ leaves and the intellectual and psychological become aligned.

The reason this can happen is based on the neurons in the brain that were discovered recently call Mirror Neurons.  These are the parts of our brain where we feel empathy.  For instance, when you see someone fall on a bike and you squinch your face and body together saying “Ouch! That had to hurt!”  You didn’t actually experience the fall yourself, but you could ‘feel’ the pain and hurt.  The only thing standing in the way of you not hurting for real is the Insular Cortex.  That’s the part of the brain that makes it possible to know when you are experiencing an event and when you are only observing someone else experiencing an event.  More precisely, it produces an emotionally relevant context for sensory experience.  When the Insular Cortex isn’t working properly, a person can experience feelings of pain, like irritable bowel, all the way to such extreme cases as PTSD.

So, what does all this have to do with neuroscience and hypnosis collaborating?  All the cases of people feeling pain when there is no physiological reason is caused by neurons in the brain not firing properly; firing too much, firing in a sequence that’s non-beneficial, or in some other way by the neurons and their associated chemicals not working properly.  When people experience basic emotions, including anger, fear, disgust, happiness and sadness, to extreme degrees, it means the neurons aren’t firing properly.  I suggest to you that many of the times in our lives where we exhibit extreme behaviors that we are stressed and that the stress creates and causes the neurons and associated chemicals in our brains to make connections that weren’t meant to be made, or, at least, not meant to last for long periods of time.  I have experienced using hypnosis for many years and I have seen it produce results that, until the advent of advanced neuroscience’s proof, would have been deemed as ridiculous.  Can a person really relieve physical pain through changing the pattern of their thinking?  Neuroscience now says “Yes!”  Hypnosis has said it for decades.  Can a person with Phantom Limb be helped through the use of psychology (and a mirror)?  Neuroscience now says “Yes!”  Hypnosis has said “Yes!” for decades (but, without the mirror  :)).

My hope is to collaborate with Professor Ramachandran in showing the world that neuroscience and hypnotists can work together to help mankind live better, happier, more fulfilling lives through learning to control their mind!

Creating life in forward motion,

Dr. Edward Lewellen