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uni'wissen 01-2016_ENG

regions most active under hypnosis are those that process images. Thus, one might say, “You feel the sand beneath your feet and hear the waves crashing on the shore.” Hypnosis has a calming and soothing effect on patients during treatment, because they can separate themselves mentally from their pain in this state. But that’s not all: A hypnotherapeutic treatment can also reduce the patient’s under- lying anxieties. To do so, the therapist guides the phobic patient to a point in the future during hyp- nosis and suggests to his or her subconscious mind that the trip to the dentist wasn't that bad after all. This subconscious experience then relieves the patient of his or her anxiety during the actual trip to the dentist. “The subconscious mind knows what the conscious mind needs to do,” summarizes Halsband. In the case of other illnesses, however, the jury is still out on whether hypnosis is a useful form of therapy. This is particularly true of psychoses, such as paranoia or schizophrenia. “Scientists usually recommend staying away from psychotics,” says Halsband, because suggestions under hyp- nosis are regarded as counterproductive for people who are already suffering from a feeling that their surroundings are not real. However, the research- er warns against lumping all such cases into a single category. She points out that there are hospitals that use the method for such patients as a complement to drug therapy and claim to have achieved good results with it. In case of doubt, however, Halsband would decide against using hypnosis. Help against Stress The scientist is also cautious about using meditation for therapeutic purposes. For patients with bipolar depressions and thoughts of suicide, she advises against it. However, meditation can do a lot of good for those plagued by stress in our society, as Halsband has shown by measur- ing the brain activity of meditating test subjects. She uses electroencephalography (EEG) for these measurements, because the necessary device is portable and hence more flexible. It is not as good as imaging techniques at localizing the various brain regions, but many test subjects would find it difficult to meditate in the tube of an MRI scanner, where it is also rather loud. Hals- band conducts some of her experiments in her office, which she has shielded from electromag- netic fields. “The test subjects can even use the utensils they need there, such as a singing bowl.” Her colleague Prof. Dr. Thilo Hinterberger from the Regensburg University Medical Center has already put an electrode cap on meditating monks in the Himalaya. He demonstrated that the activity of the brain regions in the frontal cortex, which are responsible for thinking and planning, is measurably lower during meditation than in a normal waking state. There are even studies indicating that people who meditate regularly lose brain mass less quickly than those who do not meditate as they age. As one of her next pro- jects, Ulrike Halsband aims to study what conse- quences this has for cognitive performance. Neuropsychologie Further Reading Halsband, U. / Wolf, T. (2016): Functional changes in brain activity after hypnosis in patients with dental phobia. In: Journal of Physiology – Paris (in press). Halsband, U. (2015): Neurobiologie der Hypnose. In: Revenstorf, D. /  Peter, B. (Eds.) (20153): Hypnose in Psychotherapie, Psychosomatik und Medizin. Manual für die Praxis. Berlin, pp. 795–816. Halsband, U. / Mueller, S. / Hinterberger T. et al. (2009): Plasticity changes in the brain in hypnosis and meditation. In: Contemporary Hypnosis 26/4, pp. 194–215. doi: 10.1002/ch.386 Prof. Dr. Ulrike Halsband Halsband studied experi- mental psychology at the Universities of Sussex and Oxford, Great Britain, and earned her PhD in Oxford in 1982. She then went on to teach and conduct research at many different institutions, including a two-year stay in Japan. She completed her habilitation thesis at the Department of Neurology of the Düsseldorf University Medical Center in 1996 and has served as professor of neuropsychology at the University of Freiburg since 1999. She conducts neuro- scientific research on the effect of meditation and hypnosis and behavioral research on dogs. Photo: private Dread of drills? Hypnosis and meditation can help treat a dental phobia. People with this disorder have an excessive fear of going to the dentist. Photo: Robert Kneschke/Fotolia uni wissen 01 2016 27 uni wissen 01201627