More than a decade ago, the medical profession thought that the brain was static. In that worldview, our brains would reach their peak in our early twenties and these capabilities would slowly decrease as the number of synaptic connections in the brain would shrink.
Nowadays, psychologists, and medical practitioners have abandoned the concept of a hard-wired brain. They agree that the brain is elastic. It changes constantly under the influence of the environment and one’s own thoughts and behaviors. Synapses may strengthen or weaken. A brain function can be transferred from one part to another. Some regions might get overactive while others become less active.
The wide acceptance of the brain plasticity has revived hopes for memory rehabilitation. The brain’s ability to adapt should allow the recovery of people who suffered brain injury. But rehabilitation efforts had proved inconclusive until a 2017 study showed that hypnosis could help brain injured patients improve their working memory.
Neuroscientists still do not know how memory works exactly. They have identified the major parts of the brain that are essential for memory function. One of these major parts is the hippocampus, a part that is able to grow new neurons to store more information. Cab drivers in London are known to have a larger hippocampus because of their navigation experience in London. Their hippocampus grows larger as the taxi drivers spend more time on their job.
Neuroscientists usually distinguish between short-term memory and long-term memory based on their timespans. Short-term memory as its name indicates helps you remember something for a few seconds to a minute without rehearsal. This working memory is essential for encoding the information and transferring it into the long-term memory. Working memory is also useful to retrieve the same information.
Imagine a world where you have something to say to a friend who is on the phone and you have to wait for a few minutes. When this friend is available, you have forgotten what you wanted to say. Or you are having a conversation with a friend and you are finding it difficult to follow because you keep on forgetting what your friend has just said. When you do not follow through tasks, you are accused of not listening. You listened but you forgot. You can now imagine what a life with a short-term memory impairment can feel like.
Hypnotic suggestions can effectively improve working memory following acquired brain injury.
An even more remarkable observation relates to the speed and consistency with which the improvement occurred. In the study, people received 4 hypnotherapy sessions that lasted one hour each. By the end of the study the participants “reached a performance level at or above the healthy population.”
Hypnosis allows you to reach a state of focused awareness through which you can make yourself more receptive to positive suggestions. This focused state is natural. You experience hypnosis many times during a day: on a highway, when you are reading, watching a movie, in the zone finishing a difficult assignment or competing for a medal. Would you say that you were losing control or that you fell asleep in these situations? You were safely going through the day in a hypnotic state.
Your beliefs condition your thoughts, which condition your behavior, which yield some actions that lead to some results. Said differently, your level of happiness and success is a direct function of your thoughts. If you are confident in your abilities to perform better, you will learn faster and increase your chances of performing at your best. Your environment might not help you but your lack of results come from your inability to take action, and not the environment. You can chose to accept the thought that you can achieve success or you can decide that you are able to take action and achieve success.
The state of focused awareness called hypnosis helps you work directly on these thoughts and beliefs. The more direct action on your thoughts helps you adopt the right behaviors, that lead to the appropriate actions and therefore to success.
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