Investigators from the School of Medicine, University of Szeged in Szeged, Hungary, looked into the mechanism whereby hypnosis boosts human learning.
It is known in a general way that learning and memory depend on different cognitive systems that are related to separate and distinct brain structures. These systems interact, not only in cooperative ways to optimize performance, but also sometimes in competitive ways.
Previous studies have shown that by reducing the engagement of frontal lobe-mediated explicit attentional processes, improved performance can result in striatum-related procedural learning.

In this study, hypnosis was used as a tool to reduce the competition between these two systems.  Researchers compared learning under hypnosis vs. in the alert state, and found that hypnosis boosted striatum-dependent sequence learning.

Since frontal lobe-dependent processes are primarily affected by hypnosis, this finding could be attributed to the disruption of these explicit attentional processes.

This result sheds light, not only on the competitive nature of brain systems in cognitive processes, but could also have important implications for training and rehabilitation programs, especially for developing new methods to improve human learning and memory performance.

Citation:  Nemeth D, Janacsek K, Polner B, Kovacs ZABoosting human learning by hypnosis. Cerebral Cortex. 2013 Apr;23(4):801-5. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhs068. Epub 2012 Mar 29. [email protected]