Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

Compendium of interesting bits I come across, with an occasional IMHO

Placebo effect is real

Spinal-cord neural activity found when individuals were convinced that their pain would be alleviated by a cream treatment, irrespective of whether the cream was real or a placebo.  From

Placebo effect not all in your head

By Dana Blankenhorn | Oct 16, 2009

A team under Falk Eippert in Hamburg, Germany reports they have direct evidence that the placebo effect starts in the spine.

The paper (in English) is in Science.

The German experiment consisted of giving subjects two “treatments” to prevent pain, one said to be a lidocaine cream and the other a control. Those given what they believed to be lidocaine experienced less pain, but in fact both creams were identical.

This means the “placebo effect” is real. It causes distinct physiological changes that can be measured.

The mind is still very much involved. Those who believed a treatment would work showed a much greater placebo effect than those who did not believe or were unsure.

The research does more than validate possible new treatments. It also illustrates how many sham treatments, in the present and the past, could provide real relief to patients, by triggering this physiological effect.

There is a second implication in all this, the nocebo effect. Whether doctors expect something to work or not telling the patient it definitely will work can impact the result. Telling someone an experimental treatment may not work may reduce its chances of providing relief.


October 22, 2009 - Posted by | behaviour, brain, psychology | ,

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