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May 1966

Plasma Cortisol Changes During Hypnotic Trance: Relation to Depth of Hypnosis

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, the psychoendocrine Research Laboratory, and the Studies in Hypnosis Project, Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Boston. Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Harvard Medical School (Dr. Sachar); Department of Psychology, Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass (Dr. Cobb); and Unit for Experimental Psychiatry of the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Dr. Shor).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1966;14(5):482-490. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1966.01730110034005

THIS paper will report on some of the psychological concomitants of an endocrine phenomenon which we have observed following prolonged hypnotic trance states in certain subjects. The endocrine change is a drop in the level of plasma cortisol to unusually low levels after 90 minutes of passive, relaxing hypnotic trance.

Plasma cortisol—or hydrocortisone, or 17-hydroxycorticosteroids—has been used by psychophysiologists as an index of pituitary-adrenal cortical activity, and elevations in plasma cortisol concentration are a characteristic part of the organism's response to psychological stress.1-3 Here, we are focusing on psychological factors possibly involved in lowering cortisol levels.

In a previous study by Sachar et al,4 we have observed trance-associated drops in plasma cortisol to the very low levels of 3μg/100 cc or below in 5 out of 12 excellent hypnotic subjects, or in 25% of the 24 hypnotic sessions. Such low

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