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April 8, 1961

Charcot and Hypnosis

JAMA. 1961;176(1):73-74. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040140075031

To the Editor:—  In your editorial (The Journal, Dec. 24, 1960, pp. 2148-2150) covering the work of Jean-Martin Charcot, 1825-1893, you omitted an important area with which he is intimately identified— scientific hypnosis. Because of his authority and popularity, his interest in this field excited wider concern with it. Yet many of his contributions and those of his students have not withstood the test of time.1 For example, he was incorrect in viewing hypnosis as a psychopathological phenomenon. Neither hypnotizability nor induced hypnotic behavior are actually intrinsically pathological. The lethargic, cataleptic, and somnambulistic stages of hypnosis associated with Charcot are not inherent to it, nor are the specific methods by which they could presumably be brought about.Charcot erroneously emphasized the hypnotic production of muscle "contractures" and skin anesthesias elicited by pressure on areas of peripheral nerve distribution. He was mistaken in his belief regarding intimate connections between magnets

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