Exploring the science of hypnosis with Stanford's David Spiegel

Michelle Brandt

Are you hypnotizable? Chantell Williams, with National Geographic's Youth Radio, recently sought that answer about herself and turned to Stanford's David Spiegel, MD, for help.

A psychiatrist who uses hypnosis to treat patients for things like pain and phobias, Spiegel published an imaging study last year showing how the areas of the brain associated with executive control and attention tend to have less activity in people who can't be put into a hypnotic trance compared to those who can be. This means, Spiegel told me then, that hypnotizability is “less about personality variables and more about cognitive style.”

Noting that hypnosis is "literally the oldest western conception of a psycho-therapy," Spiegel discusses his work and the science behind the therapy in a podcast with Williams. As for whether Williams had success with self hypnosis, you'll just have to listen.