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What brain wave states are most correlated with deep hypnosis?

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so what is the ideal state for hypnosis? – Angela Aug 16 at 11:51

3 Answers 3

Hypnotic states are associated with increased theta wave activity. Hypnotically susceptible participants also exhibit hemispheric beta wave asymmetry, but non-susceptible participants do not (Sabourin, Cutcomb, Crawford and Pribram, 1990).


  • Sabourin, M. E., Cutcomb, S. D., Crawford, H. J., & Pribram, K. (1990). EEG correlates of hypnotic susceptibility and hypnotic trance: Spectral analysis and coherence. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 10(2), 125-142.
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I am studying hypnotherapy at University and this is what I have learnt.

During the induction stages of hypnosis, the body becomes more and more relaxed and the brain enters changing levels of brain wave pattern. There are five brainwave frequencies, however there are four main different brainwave patterns when looking at hypnosis. These are Beta wave pattern, Alpha wave pattern, Theta wave pattern and Delta wave pattern as measured by an EEG (Electroencephalograph).

In the fully engaged and focused state, the brain will show a Beta wave pattern which is from 15 to 40 cycles per second

In a restful state, the brain will show an Alpha wave pattern which is from 9 to 14 cycles per second

In a deeper state of hypnosis, similar to dreaming and some meditative states, the brain shows a Theta wave pattern which is from 4 to 8 cycles per second

And in the deepest state of hypnosis, the brain shows a Delta wave pattern which is from 1 to 4 cycles per second and it is associated with deep dreamless sleep. The deeper the sleep, the higher the amount of delta waves.

The other brainwave frequency is Gamma (40Hz - 70Hz) associated with Processing of various attended stimuli (visual, auditory, touch) and the grouping of the various features of a given stimulus, particularly visual, into a coherent whole.

An important point is that there is no such thing as a “gamma state” of mind. Gamma waves largely play a supporting – though integral- role in the brain. From an EEG point of view, they will be present mostly while a subject is awake, but they will always be supported by other waves in the beta, alpha, theta, or delta ranges.

Brainwave patterns change in a gradual way. That is to say that it will not switch immediately from say 27Hz (27 cycles per second - Beta Waves) to 2Hz (2 cycles per second - Delta Waves). The frequency of brainwaves gradually decreases and increases as required. The speed of gradual change in brainwave frequency however can be fast or slow depending on the individual and the ability of the hypnotherapist. During reorientation, the brainwave patterns will gradually increase towards the Beta waves bringing the client back to full state of awareness.

All the above mentioned brainwave frequencies are normally present together in the brain. However, the dominant frequency in the EEG pattern determines what shall be called the current state of the brain. If the amplitude of the alpha range frequencies is highest, then the brain is said to be in the alpha stage. Note, that other frequencies still exist and it is impossible to give any "exact frequency your brain is operating on." However, for simplification purpose, it is often assumed that such a single frequency exists.

In general, we are accustomed to using the beta brain rhythm. When we diminish the brain rhythm to alpha, we put ourselves in the ideal condition to learn new information, keep facts, perform elaborate tasks, learn languages and analyse complex situations etc. Meditation, relaxation exercises, and activities that enable the sense of calm, also enable this alpha state. Considered as an integral part of the relaxation process before sleep. The alpha frequency band has been studied extensively in meditations of various kinds (like Zen, TM etc) and in almost all cases an increase in the alpha waves has been noted during meditation.

In the Theta state associated with dreams, deep meditation, sleep, and hypnosis, this is seemed to be involved with short-term memory. It is a state of somnolence with reduced consciousness. The theta-state is described by sleep researchers as stage 1 sleep or the twilight state. In this state, subjects pass out of the alert alpha-state into a theta-state in which they lose their sense of lying in bed, though still being awake.

Subjects can be easily awoken from this stage of sleep, and it has many interesting properties. For a brief time as we lie in bed at night, neither fully awake nor yet asleep, we pass through a twilight mental zone like a state of reverie. Many people associate this drowsy stage with hallucinatory images, more fleeting and disjointed than dreams, and compare it to the viewing of a speeded-up, jerky series of photographic slides. A host of artists and scientists have credited the imagery of this twilight state with creative solutions and inspiration for their work.

Meditative states associated with the increased presence of delta waves seem to occur mostly in very experienced practitioners, possibly because entering a delta state and maintaining consciousness at the same time is tremendously difficult.

Sources: Chrysalis Courses and Brain Wave Frequencies

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There does seem to be changed activity in the brain, however. The most notable data comes from electroencephalographs (EEGs), measurements of the electrical activity of the brain. Extensive EEG research has demonstrated that brains produce different brain waves, rhythms of electrical voltage, depending on their mental state. Deep sleep has a different rhythm than dreaming, for example, and full alertness has a different rhythm than relaxation.

In some studies, EEGs from subjects under hypnosis showed a boost in the lower frequency waves associated with dreaming and sleep, and a drop in the higher frequency waves associated with full wakefulness. Brain-wave information is not a definitive indicator of how the mind is operating, but this pattern does fit the hypothesis that the conscious mind backs off during hypnosis and the subconscious mind takes a more active role.

Researchers have also studied patterns in the brain's cerebral cortex that occur during hypnosis. In these studies, hypnotic subjects showed reduced activity in the left hemisphere of the cerebral cortex, while activity in the right hemisphere often increased. Neurologists believe that the left hemisphere of the cortex is the logical control center of the brain; it operates on deduction, reasoning and convention. The right hemisphere, in contrast, controls imagination and creativity. A decrease in left-hemisphere activity fits with the hypothesis that hypnosis subdues the conscious mind's inhibitory influence. Conversely, an increase in right-brain activity supports the idea that the creative, impulsive subconscious mind takes the reigns. This is by no means conclusive evidence, but it does lend credence to the idea that hypnotism opens up the subconscious mind.

Whether or not hypnosis is actually a physiological phenomenon, millions of people do practice hypnotism regularly, and millions of subjects report that it has worked on them. In the next section, we'll look at the most common methods of inducing a hypnotic trance.

Source: How Hypnosis Works at How Stuff Works

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Unreliable secondary source that does not cite any peer-reviewed literature. Furthermore, the information is overly general (i.e., no explanation of specific oscillatory states) and hinges on outmoded constructs (left-brain/right-brain B.S.) I believe this merits a downvote, but I will be happy to re-evaluate if you update your answer with some better research =) – blz Jun 7 '14 at 15:13

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