Visualising the Hypnotised Brain: Hysteria Research from Charcot to Functional Brain Scans


  • Paula Muhr Humboldt Universiy Berlin



Hysteria, conversion disorder, hypnosis, Charcot, functional brain images, PET, fMRI, comparison, similarity


Contrary to the widely held belief in the humanities that hysteria no longer exists, this article shows that the advent of new brain imaging technologies has reignited scientific research into this age-old disorder, once again linking it to hypnosis. Even though humanities scholarship to date has paid no attention to it, image-based research of hysteria via hypnosis has been hailed in specialist circles for holding the potential to finally unravel the mystery of this elusive disorder. Following a succinct overview of how hypnosis was used in the nineteenth century hysteria research, the article details how the relationship between hysteria and hypnosis is currently renegotiated in the context of brain imaging studies. It shows that the current research has so far failed to deliver on its promise of uncovering the link between hysteria and hypnosis. It further argues that despite huge technological advances in imaging technologies, contemporary researchers grapple with conceptual problems comparable to those that plagued their nineteenth century predecessors.


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