Hypnotic suggestion reduces conflict in the human brain.
Many studies have suggested that conflict monitoring involves the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). We previously showed that a specific hypnotic suggestion reduces involuntary conflict and alters information processing in highly hypnotizable individuals. Hypothesizing that such conflict reduction would be associated with decreased ACC activation, we combined neuroimaging methods to provide high temporal and spatial resolution and studied highly and less-hypnotizable participants both with and without a suggestion to interpret visual words as nonsense strings. Functional MRI data revealed that under posthypnotic suggestion, both ACC and visual areas presented reduced activity in highly hypnotizable persons compared with either no-suggestion or less-hypnotizable controls. Scalp electrode recordings in highly hypnotizable subjects also showed reductions in posterior activation under suggestion, indicating visual system alterations. Our findings illuminate how suggestion affects cognitive control by modulating activity in specific brain areas, including early visual modules, and provide a more scientific account relating the neural effects of suggestion to placebo.