Neuroscience Series 1: Hypnosis

Suhas Kommalapaty, Guest Writer

Imagine your brain being controlled from the outside by a weird force compelling you to do certain tasks. I’m pretty sure we all thought of hypnosis, but we all know it is not real, right? Well, things like Project MKultra that the CIA started brought hypnosis to the front of mind control. 

During Project MKultra, the CIA would take American citizens, some non-consensually,  and would weaken their brains with interrogations and hallucinogenic drugs. The drug that was mainly used for breaking a person’s mind was LSD. LSD stands for Lysergic Acid Diethylamide; the other word for this is acid. The drug itself is used for hallucinations but also can cause dilated pupils, increased body temperature, and increased blood pressure. The drug can be physiologically addictive which can lead to anxiety, paranoia, and delusions. The CIA also happened to use amphetamine and barbiturate. They injected the drugs in both arms at the same time. Amphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant common compound in ADHD prescription pills. On the other hand, barbiturate is used as a central nervous system suppressant. This drug is mostly used in hypnotic scenarios, which is why the CIA used it for this project. 

At Stanford University, Professor David Spiegel happened to figure out what happens to your brain during this stage of hypnosis. At the start, they saw reduced action in the part of the brain called the Dorsal Anterior Cingulate. This portion of the brain is under the brain salience network which picks and chooses what stimuli the brain will give its attention to. Professor Spiegel says that this is used “in hypnosis, so you’re absorbed and not worrying about anything else”. Hypnosis also affected your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex which is the section of your brain that processes the motions that your body is executing. Ultimately Spiegel explained that “When you’re engaged in something, you don’t think about doing it — you just do it” that is the basis of addiction which is another form of hypnosis. 

Hypnosis may be used in the future to control humankind to do a single nation’s bidding. The USA was close to being that country during the project MKultra time. Hypnosis is used in many different areas but we have not figured out the full effect of it yet.