Werner Absenger, Saybrook School of MBM PhD Candidate, Examines How Hypnosis Can Impact the Modulation of Cytokines: Report from the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (Adapted with permission from Dr. Don Moss and The Saybrook Forum).
Werner Absenger is a PhD Candidate in the Saybrook University School of Mind-Body Medicine, with a specialization in healthcare research. On October 5, 2013, he delivered a presentation to the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, based on his current doctoral research utilizing hypnosis to influence immune function and the modulation of cytokines in cancer populations.
Absenger summarized an exhaustive review of 1586 articles in 22 databases to find credible studies where hypnosis was used to modify cytokines. He found only six credible studies, with a total of 133 participants. One of the six studies studied chronic illness.
Absenger reviewed the research models and findings of the six studies, and cited several of the authors, who concluded that hypnosis can modulate the cytokines.
- Johnson et al. (1996) found significant correlation between a measure of creative imagination and Interleukin-1β (IL-1β) levels, and reported that only the hypnosis group showed an overall reduction in IL-1β.
- Goodin et al. (2012) concluded that hypnosis may be effective in modifying soluble Tumor Necrosis Factor-α Receptor Type II (sTNFαRII).
- Kiecolt-Glaser et al. (2001) concluded that hypnosis was instrumental in balancing systemic Interleukin-1β (IL-1β) toward desired levels.
- Mawdsley et al. (2008) reported that hypnosis significantly reduced Interleukin-6 (IL-6) by a median of 23% in healthy subjects and a median of 53% in patients with active ulcerative colitis. The relevance of this finding is reinforced by their additional finding that the IL-6 serum levels were three times as high in those patients with active ulcerative colitis, compared to those with dormant disease.
- Wood et al. (2003) assessed whether or not hypnosis can differentially modulate T-cell subsets, and if this effect is mediated by changes in hypothalamo- pituitary-adrenal (HPA) mediators. They report significant effects for the hypnosis intervention on IFN-gamma (F[2, 43] = 16.28, p = .0001) and IL-2 (F[2,43] = 4.82, p = .013).
Absenger critiqued the scarcity of relevant research on hypnosis and immune function. In the past 10 years, only four articles were published investigating the immunomodulatory effects of hypnosis on cytokines. Since 1996, only the Mawdsley et al. (2008) study used an actual clinical population, where all other studies utilized healthy normal subjects.
The conclusions of Absenger’s extensive literature review are that future research needs to further investigate the impact of hypnosis on modulating cytokines and enhancing immune function.
Poster About Cytokines and Hypnosis
In addition, Absenger provided a poster presentation for the SCEH conference, based on a pilot study, in which he studied the effects of hypnosis on healthy subjects. In the pilot study, two hypnosis groups (online and face-to-face hypnosis) showed similar short-term increases in IL-1β, while the control subjects showed decreases.
Werner Absenger will pursue this research further in his doctoral dissertation through the Saybrook University School of Mind-Body Medicine, using hypnosis to modulate cytokines in a cancer population.
Goodin, B. R., Quinn, N. B., Kronfli, T., King, C. D., Page, G. G., Haythornthwaite, J. A., … McGuire, L. (2012). Experimental pain ratings and reactivity of cortisol and soluble tumor necrosis factor-α receptor II following a trial of hypnosis: Results of a randomized controlled pilot study. Pain Medicine, 13(1), 29–44. doi:10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01293.x
Johnson, V. C., Walker, L. G., Heys, S. D., Whiting, P. H., & Eremin, O. (1996). Can relaxation training and hypnotherapy modify the immune response to stress, and is hypnotizability relevant? Contemporary Hypnosis, 13(2), 100–108.
Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Marucha, P. T., Atkinson, C., & Glaser, R. (2001). Hypnosis as a modulator of cellular immune dysregulation during acute stress. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69(4), 674–682. doi:10.1037//0022-006X.69.4.674
Mawdsley, J. E., Jenkins, D. G., Macey, M. G., Langmead, L., & Rampton, D. S. (2008). The effect of hypnosis on systemic and rectal mucosal measures of inflammation in ulcerative colitis. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 103(6), 1460–1469. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2008.01845.x
Wood, G. J., Bughi, S., Morrison, J., Tanavoli, S., Tanavoli, S., & Zadeh, H. H. (2003). Hypnosis, differential expression of cytokines by T-cell subsets, and the hypothalamo-pituitary- adrenal axis. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 45(3), 179–196. doi:10.1080/00029157.2003.10403525