Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Emily Singer

A View from Emily Singer

Could a Computer Hypnotize You?

Transforming hypnosis from an art to a science.

  • September 28, 2007

I ran a panel titled “Engineering the Brain” at Technology Review’s EmTech conference yesterday. One of the speakers was Ed Boyden, a new professor at the MIT Media Lab and one of last year’s TR35. He never ceases to astound with the broad range of projects he’s working on–everything from a molecular light switch that controls neurons to a new device to noninvasively stimulate the brain. (See “A Light Switch for the Brain.”) One of Boyden’s latest endeavors is a computer-based hypnosis program that is personalized to the user.

While most people think of hypnosis as an entertaining parlor trick or a dubious way to quit smoking, a smattering of scientific studies suggest that the trance-like state could have medical benefits in calming anxiety and managing pain during medical procedures. According to Boyden, the problem with bringing hypnosis into clinical practice is that it’s something of an art. Standardized scripts for inducing hypnosis don’t allow the practitioner to adapt his or her approach to the patient. When researching the field, Boyden said that he noticed that hypnosis scripts tend to resemble computer programs. So he and his students designed a computer program that uses a quick personality survey to identify what the user finds relaxing; it then generates a customized set of suggestions to induce him or her into a state of hypnotic relaxation. Stay tuned for an online demo now in development!

More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to MIT Technology Review.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

    The MIT Technology Review App

  • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

  • Print Subscription {! insider.prices.print_only !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six print issues per year plus The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Print magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.