I hypnotised audiences in Sydney and Melbourne in August 2015 when I recorded N of Us live at Wired for Wonder. They caught it all on camera. Dive in and find your flow!
One of the more sideways glances that Supreme Researcher Hannah dug up in her search for the neurobiological basis of hypnosis for Episode 7 of the podcast was this study: the experience of trance for people who (claim to) speak with The Other Side....
Despite increasing interest in pathological and non-pathological dissociation, few researchers have focused on the spiritual experiences involving dissociative states such as mediumship, in which an individual (the medium) claims to be in communication with, or under the control of, the mind of a deceased person. Our preliminary study investigated psychography – in which allegedly “the spirit writes through the medium's hand” – for potential associations with specific alterations in cerebral activity. We examined ten healthy psychographers – five less expert mediums and five with substantial experience, ranging from 15 to 47 years of automatic writing and 2 to 18 psychographies per month – using single photon emission computed tomography to scan activity as subjects were writing, in both dissociative trance and non-trance states. The complexity of the original written content they produced was analyzed for each individual and for the sample as a whole. The experienced psychographers showed lower levels of activity in the left culmen, left hippocampus, left inferior occipital gyrus, left anterior cingulate, right superior temporal gyrus and right precentral gyrus during psychography compared to their normal (non-trance) writing. The average complexity scores for psychographed content were higher than those for control writing, for both the whole sample and for experienced mediums. The fact that subjects produced complex content in a trance dissociative state suggests they were not merely relaxed, and relaxation seems an unlikely explanation for the underactivation of brain areas specifically related to the cognitive processing being carried out. This finding deserves further investigation both in terms of replication and explanatory hypotheses.
That's the abstract from Neuroimaging during Trance State: A Contribution to the Study of Dissociation, by Julio Fernando Peres, Alexander Moreira-Almeida, Leonardo Caixeta, Frederico Leao, Andrew Newberg, published in PLOS Collections in 2012.
People enter trance states for many reasons - and get through via many means, including personal suggestion. For some, the trance state is the ultimate participation: it gives focus, clarity, space and breath. And for the medium, it creates a complex dissociation that, this study argues, is not passive, but active.
In other words, we are intrinsically motivated to participate in what is happening to us during trance. The question we ask in this podcast is how susceptible we are to others' intrusions when we're there.
For Episode 7, our Supreme Researcher Hannah uncovered several studies in the search for evidence about the neurobiological basis for trance and suggestion.
One of them is an analysis of people with synaesthesia - a group of people who's brains are already full of crossed sensory wires. Disruption of synaesthesia by posthypnotic suggestion: An ERP study by Devin Blair Terhune, Etzel Cardeña and Magnus Lindgren, was published in 2010:
This study examined whether the behavioral and electrophysiological correlates of synaesthetic response conflict could be disrupted by posthypnotic suggestion. We recorded event-related brain potentials while a highly suggestible face-color synaesthete and matched controls viewed congruently and incongruently colored faces in a color-naming task. The synaesthete, but not the controls, displayed slower response times, and greater P1 and sustained N400 ERP components over frontal-midline electrodes for incongruent than congruent faces. The behavioral and N400 markers of response conflict, but not the P1, were abolished following a posthypnotic suggestion for the termination of the participant's synaesthesia and reinstated following the cancellation of the suggestion. These findings demonstrate that the conscious experience of synaesthesia can be temporarily abolished by cognitive control.
In other words, the hypnotic suggestion performed while under trance, appeared to untangle the sensory experience of the synaesthetes. They went back to normal when the experiment was completed.
It's not just games getting into the flow, here're two studies from the literature looking at how best to generate flow in web pages, to optimise browsing and to keep people sitting on consumer websites. Both of these are referenced in Episode 7 of the podcast.
Measuring the Customer Experience in Online Environments by Novak, Hoffman & Yung (1998)
Optimizing Flow in Web Design by Andrew King from 2003
And straight from the horse's mouth, have a gander at a 1996 interview in Wired Magazine with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called Go With The Flow.
Flow image, from the PS3 version of the game, courtesy Jenova Chen.