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Article
July 6, 1994

Effect of Hypnotic Suggestion on the Delayed-Type Hypersensitivity Response

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass (Drs Locke, Covino, and Danforth, and Ms Molay); the Charles A. Dana Research Institute and the Harvard-Thorndike Laboratory of Beth Israel Hospital, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard-Medical School, Boston, Mass (Dr Ransil); the Department of Psychology, University of Aarhus, (Denmark) (Mr Zachariae); and the Department of Nursing, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, Mass (Ms Tollins).

JAMA. 1994;272(1):47-52. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520010059033
Abstract

Objective.  —To determine whether individuals selected for good general health, high hypnotizability, and the ability to alter skin temperature under hypnotic suggestion can influence the delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) response to varicella-zoster (VZ) antigen under hypnotic suggestion.

Design.  —A blinded clinical trial using a repeated measures design with subjects serving as their own controls. Subjects were randomly assigned to undergo a predetermined sequence of four different experimental conditions, occurring at weekly intervals, with each condition including VZ skin testing: (1) hypnosis with suggestions to enhance the DTH response to VZ antigen; (2) hypnosis with suggestions to suppress the DTH response; (3) hypnosis with suggestions for relaxation only; and (4) skin testing without hypnosis.

Setting.  —A National Institutes of Health—supported clinical research center in a teaching hospital.

Subjects.  —A stratified sample of 24 ambulatory, healthy, highly hypnotizable, volunteer college students selected for their above-average ability to alter skin temperature after hypnotic suggestions and their positive baseline responses to VZ antigen. There were 11 males and 13 females with a mean±SD age of 22±6 years. The mean±SD hypnotizability score (Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility) was 11±1.

Interventions.  —Intradermal skin testing with VZ antigen (Mantoux method) and hypnotic suggestion.

Main Outcome Measures.  —Areas of induration of the DTH response measured at 24 and 48 hours after injection of antigen.

Results.  —The area of the DTH response was not affected by the experimental interventions. The area of erythema was likewise unaffected.

Conclusions.  —Our subjects were unable to alter their DTH responses using hypnotic suggestion.(JAMA. 1994;272:47-52)

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