No self-respecting cult leader would allow his members to undergo brain scans as their minds were being carefully manipulated, so we have no direct evidence on the neurological consequences of the whole cult experience. But with today’s knowledge of how the brain functions, we can get a pretty clear picture of what’s going on.HYPNOSIS
Recent neurological studies show that hypnosis has a definite effect on brain activity. Lying hypnotised in an fMRI brain scanner at Columbia University in New York, volunteers were asked to read the name of a colour, with the word often appearing in a different colour to challenge their powers of concentration.
They were found to have reduced activity in their dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain involved in conflict detection and decision-making. By suppressing that function, cult hypnosis techniques render members more likely to overcome their doubts and accept the group’s beliefs.