From Freud to neuroimaging: Hypnosis as a common thread

David A. Oakley

in From the Couch to the Lab

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199600526
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754753 | DOI:
From Freud to neuroimaging: Hypnosis as a common thread

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Hypnosis was an important influence in the early development of psychoanalysis through Sigmund Freud's acquaintance with the views of the physician and neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. In particular Charcot had noted the commonalities between hypnotically suggested phenomena and the protean symptoms of hysteria in the patients that he saw. Freud famously developed these views with Joseph Breuer into an early psychoanalytic account of hysteria. In a broader context, hypnosis arguably also set the pattern for Freud's views on the unconscious and volition. Though the fields of hypnosis and psychoanalysis diverged in later years there is now a reconvergence catalysed in large part by the increasing availability of neuroimaging techniques such as positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging. Combined with these techniques, hypnotic suggestion is once more being used as a means of creating experimental analogues of hysterical (conversion disorder) symptoms and the results have supported earlier views that they share the same neurocognitive mechanisms. Hypnosis also provided a practical window into the unconscious, especially as hypnotic phenomena are experienced by individuals as involuntary or unwilled, even though they retain an awareness of the circumstances surrounding their creation. Recent studies have explored the cognitive and neurocognitive processes underlying the (reversible) alterations in volition that can be created by hypnotic suggestion. This chapter reviews the experimental evidence charting the reconvergence of hypnosis with these important themes in psychoanalysis with particular emphasis on evidence from neuroimaging studies and argues that couch and lab are no longer so far apart.

Chapter.  9901 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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