The neural mechanisms of immediate and follow-up of the treatment effect of hypnosis on smoking craving

  • Xiaoming Li
  • Lijun Chen
  • Ru Ma
  • Haibao WangEmail author
  • Li Wan
  • Junjie Bu
  • Wei Hong
  • Wanwan Lv
  • Yihong Yang
  • Hengyi Rao
  • Xiaochu ZhangEmail author


Hypnosis has a therapeutic effect on substance dependence. However, its neural basis remains unclear, which impedes its further clinical applications. This study investigated the mechanisms of smoking treatment based on hypnosis from two perspectives: immediate and follow-up effects. Twenty-four smokers screened from 132 volunteers underwent hypnosis suggestion and performed a smoking-related cue task twice during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning (in normal and hypnotic states). The number of cigarettes smoked per day was recorded at follow-up visits. The smokers reported decreased craving after hypnosis. The activations in the right dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC), the left insula and the right middle frontal gyrus (rMFG), and the functional connectivity between the rDLPFC and the left insula were increased in the hypnotic state. The reduced craving was related to the DLPFC-insula network, which reflected the immediate mechanism of hypnosis on smoking. The number of cigarette use at the 1-week and 1 month follow-up was correlated with the rMFG activation which reflecting hypnotic depth, suggesting the follow-up effect of hypnosis on smoking depended on the trait of smokers. We identified two different mechanisms of hypnosis effect on smoking, which have important implications for design and optimization of hypnotic treatments on mental disorders.


Hypnosis Hypnotic aversion suggestion Hypnotherapy Smoking craving fMRI Nicotine addiction 



We would like to thank all the smokers who participated in our study. We thank Guanbao Cui for his help in organizing recruitment and testing. This work was supported by grants from The National Key Basic Research Program (2016YFA0400900 and 2018YFC0831101), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31471071, 31771221, 61773360, and 71874170), and the Anhui Natural Science Foundation (1808085MH291), and the project of human social science of Anhui province (SK2016A047), and Grants for Scientific Research of BSKY (XJ201826) from Anhui Medical University, and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China. A portion of the numerical calculations in this study were performed with the supercomputing system at the Supercomputing Centre of USTC.

Compliance with ethical standards

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Ethical approval

The study was approved by the Human Ethics Committee of the University of Science and Technology of China. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. All participants signed a written informed consent form before the experiment and were paid 400 Chinese Yuan.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11682_2019_72_MOESM1_ESM.doc (38 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 39 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical Psychology, Chaohu Clinical Medical CollegeAnhui Medical UniversityHefeiChina
  2. 2.Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the Microscale, and School of Life SciencesUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiChina
  3. 3.CAS Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of PsychologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  5. 5.Department of RadiologyThe First Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical UniversityHefeiChina
  6. 6.Neuroimaging Research Branch, Intramural Research ProgramNational Institute on Drug Abuse, NIHBaltimoreUSA
  7. 7.Department of NeurologyUniversity of Pennsylvania Perelman School of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA
  8. 8.School of Humanities & Social ScienceUniversity of Science & Technology of ChinaHefeiChina
  9. 9.Academy of Psychology and BehaviorTianjin Normal UniversityTianjinChina
  10. 10.Hefei Medical Research Center on Alcohol AddictionAnhui Mental Health CenterHefeiChina

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