‘Intuition is just rapid cognition’ (Antonio Damasio)

This quote might sound a bit blunt and unromantic but there is a lot of evidence to suggest it is close to the mark.

Our brains guzzle a lot of energy and the ‘Anterior Cingulate Cortex’ helps to ration our ‘expensive’ attentional resources.  The ACC connects the brain’s emotional structures (limbic system) and cognitive structures (prefrontal cortex) and works at the subconscious level as part of the brain’s salience network, scanning the environment for threats, errors and novelty.  Effectively, the ACC pre-selects the focus of our attention and this process is often influenced by our emotional state (intuition!).

Anatomically, the neurons in this part of the brain have a distinct shape (described as ‘spindle neurons’) which is thought to be indicative of faster transmission between brain regions and greater connectivity.  It has been found that the ACC has a great deal of connectivity with the amygdala (an area of the brain associated with emotion) and the hippocampus (an area associated with memory).

Studies indicate that anxiety is linked to heightened activity in the Anterior Cingulate. It is as if our antenna has become too sensitive and focused only on the negatives. It has also been found that higher activation of the ACC is associated with higher subjective ratings of pain.

Several approaches to emotional regulation have been found to reduce the activity of this brain region including re-appraisal and distancing techniques which form a part of the solution focused and cognitive behavioural therapy traditions.  Additionally, recent research has shown that hypnosis reduces the ACC’s activation.

Contact me to find out more about how hypnotherapy can help you develop a broader perspective, strengthen the mind-body connection and hone your intuition.


Stevens, FL et al (2011) Anterior Cingulate Cortex: Unique role in cognition and emotion. Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences.

Zimmer, C (2017) In patients under hypnosis, scientists find distinctive patterns in the brain.  Stat. https://www.statnews.com/2016/07/28/hypnosis-psychiatry-brain-activity/