J Gruzelier , F Smith, A Nagy, D Henderson

Int J Psychophysiol, 42 (1), 55-71, Aug 2001


The effects of self-hypnosis training on immune function and mood were examined in medical students at exam time. Hypnosis involved relaxation and imagery directed at improved immune function and increased energy, alertness and concentration. Hypotheses were made about activated and withdrawn personality differences.

Eight high and eight low hypnotically susceptible participants were given 10 sessions of hypnosis, one live and nine tape-recorded, and were compared with control subjects (N=12). CD3, CD4, CD8, CD19 and CD56 NK cells and blood cortisol were assayed. Life-style, activated vs. withdrawn temperament, arousal and anxiety questionnaires were administered. Self-hypnosis buffered the decline found in controls in NK (P<0.002) and CD8 cells (P<0.0.07) and CD8/CD4% (P<0.06) (45-35% order of magnitude differences) while there was an increase in cortisol (P<0.05). The change in NK cell counts correlated positively with changes in both CD8 cells and cortisol. Results were independent of changes in life-style.

Energy ratings were higher after hypnosis (P<0.01), and increased calmness with hypnosis correlated with an increase in CD4 counts (P<0.01). The activated temperament, notably the cognitive subscale (speaking and thinking quickly), was predictive of exam levels of T and B lymphocytes (P&z.Lt;0.08-P<0.02), and reaching r=0.72 (P<0.001) in the non-intervention control group. The sizeable influences on cell-mediated immunity achieved by a relatively brief, low cost psychological intervention in the face of a compelling, but routine, stress in young, healthy adults have implications for illness prevention and for patients with compromised immunity.