Saturday, September 15, 2012

Smoking Mind Over Smoking Matter: Surprising New Study Shows Cigarette Cravings Result from Habit, Not Addiction

ScienceDaily (July 14, 2010) — Nicotine patches and gum are common -- and often ineffective -- ways of fighting cigarette cravings, as most smokers have discovered. Now a new study from Tel Aviv University shows why they're ineffective, and may provide the basis for more successful psychologically-based smoking cessation programs.

In the new study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Dr. Reuven Dar of Tel Aviv University's Department of Psychology found that the intensity of cravings for cigarettes had more to do with the psychosocial element of smoking than with the physiological effects of nicotine as an addictive chemical.

"These findings might not be popular with advocates of the nicotine addiction theory, because they undermine the physiological role of nicotine and emphasize mind over matter when it comes to smoking," Dr. Dar says. He hopes this research will help clinicians and health authorities develop more successful smoking cessation programs than those utilizing expensive nicotine patches or gum.

Up in the air

Dr. Dar and his colleagues' conclusions are based on two landmark studies. In the most recent study, he and his colleagues monitored the smoking behavior and craving levels of in-flight attendants, both women and men, who worked at the Israeli airline El Al. Each participant was monitored during two flights -- a long flight of 10 to 13 hours in duration, from Tel Aviv to New York, for example; and a two-hop shorter trip from Israel to Europe and back, each leg lasting three to five hours. Using a questionnaire, he sampled craving levels of the attendants throughout the duration of their flights.

Dr. Dar and his colleagues found that the duration of the flight had no significant impact on craving levels, which were similar for short and long flights. Moreover, craving levels at the end of each short flight were much higher those at the end of the long flight, demonstrating that cravings increased in anticipation of the flight landing, whatever the flight's total duration. He concluded that the craving effect is produced by psychological cues rather than by the physiological effects of nicotine deprivation.

No smoking on the Sabbath

In an earlier 2005 study, Dr. Dar examined smokers who were religious Jews, forbidden by their religion to smoke on the Sabbath. He asked them about their smoking cravings on three separate days: the Sabbath, a regular weekday, and a weekday on which they'd been asked to abstain. Participants were interviewed at the end of each day about their craving levels during that day.

What Dr. Dar found is that cravings were very low on the morning of the Sabbath, when the smoker knew he would not be able to smoke for at least 10 hours. Craving levels gradually increased at the end of the Sabbath, when participants anticipated the first post-Sabbath cigarette. Craving levels on the weekday on which these people smoked as much as they wanted were just as high as on the day they abstained, showing that craving has little to do with nicotine deprivation.

Dr. Dar's studies conclude that nicotine is not addictive as physiological addictions are usually defined. While nicotine does have a physiological role in increasing cognitive abilities such as attention and memory, it's not an addictive substance like heroin, which creates true systemic and biologically-based withdrawal symptoms in the body of the user, he says.

Dr. Dar believes that people who smoke do so for short-term benefits like oral gratification, sensory pleasure and social camaraderie. Once the habit is established, people continue to smoke in response to cues and in situations that become associated with smoking. Dr. Dar believes that understanding smoking as a habit, not an addiction, will facilitate treatment. Smoking cessation techniques should emphasize the psychological and behavioral aspects of the habit and not the biological aspects, he suggests.

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University.

American Friends of Tel Aviv University (2010, July 14). Smoking mind over smoking matter: Surprising new study shows cigarette cravings result from habit, not addiction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2012, from­ /releases/2010/07/100713144920.htm
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Evidence for the Existence of a Hypnotic State? Key May Be in the Glazed Staring Eyes, Researchers Suggest

ScienceDaily (Oct. 25, 2011) — A multidisciplinary group of researchers from Finland (University of Turku and Aalto University) and Sweden (University of Skövde) has found that the strange stare of patients under hypnosis may be a key that can eventually lead to a solution to a long debate about the existence of a hypnotic state.

One of the most widely known features of a hypnotized person in the popular culture is a glazed, wide-open look in the eyes. Paradoxically, this sign has not been considered to have any major importance among researchers and has never been studied in any detail, probably due to the fact that it can be seen in only some hypnotized people.

Published in the online journal PLoS ONE, the study was done with a very highly hypnotizable participant who can be hypnotized and dehypnotized by just using a one-word cue. The change between hypnotic state and normal state can thus be varied in seconds.

The researchers used high-resolution eye-tracking methodology and presented a set of well-established oculomotor tasks that trigger automatic eye behavior. They found the glazed stare was accompanied by objectively measurable changes in automatic, reflexive eye behavior that could not be imitated by non-hypnotized participants.

In the field of hypnosis research this result means that hypnosis can no longer be regarded as mental imagery that takes place during a totally normal waking state of consciousness. On the other hand, the result may have wider consequences for psychology and cognitive neuroscience, since it provides the first evidence of the existence of a conscious state in humans that has previously not been scientifically confirmed.

Hypnosis has had a long and controversial history in psychology, psychiatry and neurology. For over 100 years researchers have debated if a special hypnotic state exists or whether it is just about using cognitive strategies and mental imagery in a normal waking state. So far, a hypnotic state has never been convincingly demonstrated, and therefore, many researchers regard the hypnotic state to be just a popular myth in psychology.

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Suomen Akatemia (Academy of Finland), via AlphaGalileo. 

Journal Reference:
1.      Sakari Kallio, Jukka Hyönä, Antti Revonsuo, Pilleriin Sikka, Lauri Nummenmaa. The Existence of a Hypnotic State Revealed by Eye Movements. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (10): e26374 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026374

Some People Can Hallucinate Colors at Will

ScienceDaily (Dec. 2, 2011) — Scientists at the University of Hull have found that some people have the ability to hallucinate colors at will -- even without the help of hypnosis.

The study, published this week in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, was carried out in the Department of Psychology at the University of Hull. It focused on a group of people that had shown themselves to be 'highly suggestible' in hypnosis.

The subjects were asked to look at a series of monochrome patterns and to see color in them. They were tested under hypnosis and without hypnosis and both times reported that they were able to see colors.

Individuals' reactions to the patterns were also captured using an MRI scanner, which enabled the researchers to monitor differences in brain activity between the suggestible and non-suggestible subjects. The results of the research, showed significant changes in brain activity in areas of the brain responsible for visual perception among the suggestible subjects only.

Professor Giuliana Mazzoni, lead researcher on the project says: "These are very talented people. They can change their perception and experience of the world in ways that the rest of us cannot."
The ability to change experience at will can be very useful. Research has shown that hypnotic suggestions can be used to block pain and increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy.
It has always been assumed that hypnosis was needed for these effects to occur, but the new study suggests that this is not true. Although hypnosis does seem to heighten the subjects' ability to see color, the suggestible subjects were also able to see colors and change their brain activity even without the help of hypnosis.

The MRI scans also showed clearly that although it was not necessary for the subjects to be under hypnosis to be able to perceive colors in the tests, it was evident that hypnosis increased the ability of the subjects to experience these effects.

Dr William McGeown, who also contributed to the study, says: "Many people are afraid of hypnosis, although it appears to be very effective in helping with certain medical interventions, particularly pain control. The work we have been doing shows that certain people may benefit from suggestion without the need for hypnosis."

The study, which was partially funded by the BBC, used a control group formed of less suggestible people, or people less likely to respond to hypnosis. It was found that this group of people were not able to hallucinate color and, again, these reported results were supported by MRI scans.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Want to quit smoking? Try acupuncture or hypnosis

(Reuters) - Acupuncture and hypnosis have been promoted as drug-free ways to help smokers kick the habit, and there is some evidence that they work, according to a research review that looked at 14 international studies.

Researchers, whose findings appeared in the American Journal of Medicine, said that there are still plenty of questions, including exactly how effective alternative therapies might be and how they measure up against conventional methods to quit smoking.

But the alternatives should still stand as options for smokers determined to break the habit, said researchers led by Mehdi Tahiri of McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

In general, smokers who want to quit should first try the standard approaches, which include nicotine-replacement therapy, medications and behavioral counseling, Tahiri said.

"But some people are not interested in medication," he said, adding that in many cases the standard therapies had not worked. "Then I think we should definitely recommend (acupuncture and hypnosis) as choices."

Researchers found that some studies showed that smokers subjected to acupuncture were more than three times as likely to be tobacco-free six months to a year later.

Similarly, across four trials of hypnosis, smokers had a higher success rate with the therapy compared to people who had minimal help.

But there were some caveats, researchers said. The success rate was not consistent in all the tests conducted, although the broad trends pointed to the benefits of alternate treatment.

A 2008 study that ran a few sessions of laser acupuncture on 258 smokers found that 55 percent who'd received the treatment quit the habit in six months, compared with four percent who were not given the treatment.

But a 2007 study from Taiwan that looked at needle acupuncture around the ear, the area typically targeted for smoking cessation, reported a lower success rate.

Only nine percent of those who were given acupuncture had quit after six months compared with six percent who stopped smoking without the treatment.

The situation was similar across the hypnosis trials. Two studies showed a significant impact : 20 to 45 percent of hypnosis patients were smoke-free six months to a year later. The other two trials showed smaller effects.

Nonetheless, Tahiri said, there was a "trend" toward a benefit across all of the studies of acupuncture and hypnosis.

There are still definitely questions, he added, about how many sessions of acupuncture or hypnosis might be necessary, or which specific techniques are best.

Other research reviews, though, have concluded that the jury is still out on alternative therapies for quitting smoking.


(Reporting from New York by Amy Norton at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies and Sanjeev Miglani)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hypnosis Provides Effective Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Apr. 2, 2012)

Hypnosis can be a highly effective treatment for the bowel disorder IBS.

Studies involving a total of 346 patients conducted by researchers at The Sahlgrenska Academy of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, showed that hypnotherapy alleviated symptoms in 40 per cent of those affected -- and that the improvement is long-term.

Around 15 per cent of the Swedish population is thought to suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), symptoms of which include abdominal pain and alteration of bowel habits, as well as abdominal distension and bloating. Those with milder symptoms can be helped through lifestyle advice and some medical treatments, but those with severe symptoms currently lack an effective treatment option.

Researchers at The Sahlgrenska Academy have now been able to demonstrate that hypnotherapy provides lasting relief, even for severe symptoms.

Can be used in ordinary healthcare
The treatment of IBS using hypnotherapy has been studied before, but only at highly specialised "hypnotherapy centres." Researcher Magnus Simrén and his colleagues at The Sahlgrenska Academy of Gothenburg University have conducted two studies to evaluate a form of treatment that could be used in ordinary healthcare.

40 percent showed reduction in symptoms
In one of the studies, which was published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, 138 patients with IBS received hypnotherapy treatment for one hour a week over 12 weeks. The study showed that 40 per cent demonstrated a satisfactory reduction in symptoms, compared with 12 per cent in the untreated control group.

"The treatment involves the patient learning to control their symptoms through deep relaxation and individually adapted hypnotic suggestions. The idea is for the patient to then use this technique in their everyday life," says Magnus Simrén.

The positive effect was sustained for the entire year for which the study ran and led to an improvement in the quality of life experienced by the treatment group.

Long-term effect
In the other study, which was presented in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 208 patients who had previously received hypnotherapy were examined. The results showed that 85 per cent of those who had been helped by hypnosis still felt the benefits of the treatment up to seven years later -- and that the majority still actively use the technique in their everyday lives.

"In this group, use of the healthcare system as a result of stomach and bowel symptoms had also reduced by 70 per cent," says Magnus Simrén. "Overall, our studies show that hypnotherapy is an effective method of treating IBS, even when provided outside of specialist 'hypnotherapy centres'. The conclusion is that hypnotherapy could reduce both the consumption of healthcare and the cost to society, and that hypnosis therefore belongs in the arsenal of treatments for IBS," says Magnus Simrén.

Citation: University of Gothenburg (2012, April 2). Hypnosis provides effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2012, from­ /releases/2012/04/120402124446.htm
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Meditation May Be An Effective Treatment For Insomnia

ScienceDaily (June 15, 2009) — Meditation may be an effective behavioral intervention in the treatment of insomnia, according to a research abstract that will be presented on June 9, at Sleep 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

Results indicate that patients saw improvements in subjective sleep quality and sleep diary parameters while practicing meditation. Sleep latency, total sleep time, total wake time, wake after sleep onset, sleep efficiency, sleep quality and depression improved in patients who used meditation.

According to principal investigator Ramadevi Gourineni, MD, director of the insomnia program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Evanston, Ill., insomnia is believed to be a 24-hour problem of hyperarousal, and elevated measures of arousals are seen throughout the day.

"Results of the study show that teaching deep relaxation techniques during the daytime can help improve sleep at night," said Gourineni.

The study gathered data from 11 healthy subjects between the ages of 25 and 45 years with chronic primary insomnia. Participants were divided into two intervention groups for two months: Kriya Yoga (a form of meditation that is used to focus internalized attention and has been shown to reduce measures of arousal) and health education. Subjective measures of sleep and depression were collected at baseline and after the two-month period.

Both groups received sleep hygiene education; members of the health education group also received information about health-related topics and how to improve health through exercise, nutrition, weight loss and stress management.

Abstract Title: Effects of Meditation on Sleep in Individuals with Chronic Insomnia

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Color Test Predicts Response to Hypnotherapy

ScienceDaily (Dec. 6, 2010) — When people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were asked to relate their mood to a color, those choosing a positive color were nine times more likely to respond to hypnotherapy than those who chose a negative color or no color at all. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggest that these findings could be used to predict responders to treatment.

Peter Whorwell worked with a team of researchers from the University of Manchester, UK, to carry out the study using a color chart called the 'Manchester Color Wheel' which allows patients to choose colors that have previously been defined as positive, neutral or negative. He said, "Our unit has been providing hypnotherapy for the treatment of IBS for over twenty years with approximately two thirds of patients responding to treatment. Unfortunately, patients may require as many as twelve one hour sessions of therapy to secure a response and therefore this results in the treatment being relatively expensive to provide. Consequently it would be very useful to be able to predict responders."

Speaking about the results Whorwell said, "Being able to describe mood in terms of a positive color is a sign of an active imagination, which is an important component of hypnotic ability." The hypnotherapy provided in Professor Whorwell's Unit is called gut-focused hypnotherapy. The technique aims to give a patient control over their gut and they have shown that following a course of treatment actual changes in gastrointestinal function can be demonstrated.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by BioMed Central, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:
   1. Helen R Carruthers, Julie Morris, Nicholas Tarrier and Peter J Whorwell. Mood color choice helps to predict response to hypnotherapy in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, (in press) [link]

BioMed Central (2010, December 6). Color test predicts response to hypnotherapy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 8, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/12/101206201231.htm