Autosuggestion: a cognitive process that empowers your brain?

Exp Brain Res. 2022 Feb;240(2):381-394. doi: 10.1007/s00221-021-06265-8. Epub 2021 Nov 19.


Autosuggestion is a cognitive process that is believed to enable control over one's own cognitive and physiological states. Despite its potential importance for basic science and clinical applications, such as in rehabilitation, stress reduction, or pain therapy, the neurocognitive mechanisms and psychological concepts that underlie autosuggestion are poorly defined. Here, by reviewing empirical data on autosuggestion and related phenomena such as mental imagery, mental simulation, and suggestion, we offer a neurocognitive concept of autosuggestion. We argue that autosuggestion is characterized by three major factors: reinstantiation, reiteration, and volitional, active control over one's own physiological states. We also propose that autosuggestion might involve the 'overwriting' of existing predictions or brain states that expect the most common (but not desired) outcome. We discuss potential experimental paradigms that could be used to study autosuggestion in the future, and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of current evidence. This review provides a first overview on how to define, experimentally induce, and study autosuggestion, which may facilitate its use in basic science and clinical practice.

Keywords: Autosuggestion; Somatosensory systems; Therapy; Top-down control.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autosuggestion
  • Brain*
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Suggestion*

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