Polymorphism of Opioid Receptors μ1 in Highly Hypnotizable Subjects

The possible cooperation between hypnotizability-related and placebo mechanisms in pain modulation has not been consistently assessed. Here, we investigate possible genetic bases for such cooperation. The OPRM1 gene, which encodes the μ1 opioid receptor—the primary site of action for endogenous and exogenous opioids—is polymorphic in the general population for the missense mutation Asn40Asp (A118G, rs1799971). The minor allele 118G results in decreased levels of OPRM1 mRNA and protein. As a consequence, G carriers are less responsive to opioids. The aim of the study was to investigate whether hypnotizability is associated with the presence of the OPRM1 polymorphism. Forty-three high and 60 low hypnotizable individuals, as well as 162 controls, were genotyped for the A118G polymorphism of OPRM1. The frequency of the G allele was significantly higher in highs compared to both lows and controls. Findings suggest that an inefficient opioid system may be a distinctive characteristic of highs and that hypnotic assessment may predict lower responsiveness to opioids.

What is the essence of hypnosis?

The author explores the nature of hypnosis, which he characterizes as a motivated mode of information processing that enables most humans to alter, to varying degrees, their experience of body, self, actions, and world. The essence of hypnosis is not to be found in heterohypnosis; instead, it lies in the spontaneous self-activation of that mode of information processing. The hypnosis field has substantially lost sight of spontaneous self-activation, because the word hypnosis is usually used to mean heterohypnosis. Self-activation of the hypnotic mode of information processing is the necessary sine qua non of hypnotic psychopathology. Moreover, self-activation of trance is the characteristic hypnotic behavior of a distinct subset of highly hypnotizable individuals.

Is Primary Process Cognition a Feature of Hypnosis?

The division of cognition into primary and secondary processes is an important part of contemporary psychoanalytic metapsychology. Whereas primary processes are most characteristic of unconscious thought and loose associations, secondary processes generally govern conscious thought and logical reasoning. It has been theorized that an induction into hypnosis is accompanied by a predomination of primary process cognition over secondary process cognition. The authors hypothesized that highly hypnotizable individuals would demonstrate more primary process cognition as measured by a recently developed cognitive-perceptual task. This hypothesis was not supported. In fact, low hypnotizable participants demonstrated higher levels of primary process cognition. Exploratory analyses suggested a more specific effect: felt connectedness to the hypnotist seemed to promote secondary process cognition among low hypnotizable participants.