Boosting Human Learning by Hypnosis

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Abstract

Human learning and memory depend on multiple cognitive systems related to dissociable brain structures. These systems interact not only in cooperative but also sometimes competitive ways in optimizing performance. Previous studies showed that manipulations reducing the engagement of frontal lobe–mediated explicit attentional processes could lead to improved performance in striatum-related procedural learning. In our study, hypnosis was used as a tool to reduce the competition between these 2 systems. We compared learning in hypnosis and 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 the explicit attentional processes. Our result sheds light not only on the competitive nature of brain systems in cognitive processes but also could have important implications for training and rehabilitation programs, especially for developing new methods to improve human learning and memory performance.

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