The brain under self-control: modulation of inhibitory and monitoring cortical networks during hypnotic paralysis

Neuron. 2009 Jun 25;62(6):862-75. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.05.021.


Brain mechanisms of hypnosis are poorly known. Cognitive accounts proposed that executive attentional systems may cause selective inhibition or disconnection of some mental operations. To assess motor and inhibitory brain circuits during hypnotic paralysis, we designed a go-no-go task while volunteers underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in three conditions: normal state, hypnotic left-hand paralysis, and feigned paralysis. Preparatory activation arose in right motor cortex despite left hypnotic paralysis, indicating preserved motor intentions, but with concomitant increases in precuneus regions that normally mediate imagery and self-awareness. Precuneus also showed enhanced functional connectivity with right motor cortex. Right frontal areas subserving inhibition were activated by no-go trials in normal state and by feigned paralysis, but irrespective of motor blockade or execution during hypnosis. These results suggest that hypnosis may enhance self-monitoring processes to allow internal representations generated by the suggestion to guide behavior but does not act through direct motor inhibition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis / methods
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Motor Cortex / blood supply
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Paralysis / etiology
  • Paralysis / pathology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Self Concept*


  • Oxygen