This article examines research on hypnosis and suggestion, starting with the nineteenth-century model proposed by Enrico Morselli (1852–1929), an illustrious Italian psychiatrist and psychologist. The authors conducted an original psychophysiological analysis of hypnosis, distancing the work from the neuropathological concept of the time and proposing a model based on a naturalistic approach to investigating mental processes. The issues investigated by Morselli, including the definition of hypnosis and analysis of specific mental processes such as attention and memory, are reviewed in light of modern research. From the view of modern neuroscientific concepts, some problems that originated in the nineteenth century still appear to be present and pose still-open questions.
Hypnosis and meditation, as a whole, form a heterogeneous complex of psychosomatic techniques able to control mind and body regulation. Hypnosis has been pragmatically used for limited therapeutic targets, while eastern meditation has much wider philosophical and existential implications, aiming for a radical liberation from all illusions, attachments, suffering and pain. The available data on the history, phenomenology, and neuropsychology of hypnosis and meditation show several common features, such as: (a) induction based on focused attention; (b) capability to reach an intentional control of both vegetative-somatic activities and conscious-unconscious processes; (c) activation/deactivation of several brain areas and circuits (e.g., the default modality network and pain neuromatrix) with a relevant overlapping between the two.