We often take the link between our mind and body for granted, yet in truth it is one of the least understood phenomena in the whole of science.
Take the strange case of Marion Corns. Last week, it was reported that Mrs Corns, who is from Merseyside, allowed herself to be hypnotised after becoming obese. After trying the usual diets and exercise regimes with no success, she travelled to a clinic in Spain where she was put into an altered state of consciousness and then 'talked through', in step-by-step detail, the procedure for a drastic weight-loss operation.
Mrs Corns did not actually go under the knife. But under hypnosis she was told she had been fitted with a gastric band - a device which constricts the stomach, dramatically reducing the amount that can be eaten. Although she was fully aware that no band had been fitted, something in her brain seemed to believe otherwise, and she lost four stone - exactly the sort of weight loss that could be expected if a band had been fitted.
So what on earth is going on? Can the mind be fooled to such an extent that it can 'fake' the effects of a major surgical procedure? And, if so, could it provide the path to a whole new kind of medicine - one in which pills and scalpels can be replaced by the power of mental suggestion?
The strange case of Mrs Corns certainly looks like a clear victory for those who claim that 'alternative' treatments, into which category hypnosis is often lumped, are often as effective, or better, than conventional Western medicine. But can this really be the case?