Tag Archives: Placebo Effect

Placebo ‘sweet spot’ for pain relief

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Scientists have identified for the first time the region in the brain responsible for the “placebo effect” in pain relief, when a fake treatment actually results in substantial reduction of pain, according to new research from Northwestern Medicine and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). Check out these articles – Neuroscience News and Northwestern University News

Is ‘the Sugar High’ Just a Parenting Myth?

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According to The Science of Us  (and leaving aside the well known issues related to our excessive consumption of the stuff) the concept of ‘the sugar high’ is something of a parenting urban legend; plenty of research has shown that feeding kids sugar doesn’t make them hyper. What it does do, though, is prime their parents to look for signs of misbehavior.

In part, pediatric researcher Mark Wolraich told Geggel, the misconception stems from the fact that sugar often marks a special occasion: When kids are stuffing themselves with birthday cake or Halloween candy, they’re already in a situation where they’re going to be naturally amped up. But “[parents’] ideas are reinforced by seeing it in those circumstances,” Wolraich said. “The placebo effect can be very powerful.”

Emotions, epigenetics, placebos

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A fascinating article on the many levels at which we might work to heal ourselves unconsciously. A quote from Dr Bruce Litpon, author of The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles

“The placebo effect should be the subject of major, funded research efforts. If medical researchers could figure out how to leverage the placebo effect, they would hand doctors an efficient, energy-based, side effect-free tool to treat disease. Energy healers say they already have such tools, but I am a scientist, and I believe the more we know about science of the placebo, the better we’ll be able to use it in clinical settings.”

The full article is here: The place of negative and positive emotions in our health.

Placebos in sport

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There’s so much attention right now given to Olympic atheletes’ use of ‘placebo’ rituals and objects, from favourite items of underwear to ancient Chinese ‘cupping’ techniques and herbal supplements.

“Judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison wears the lucky socks that were a gift from her grandmother. Hockey player Alex Danson spins her stick 15 times before each game. Tennis player Rafael Nadal takes alternating sips from two water bottles at every break between games.”

Quartz looks in some depth into the phenomenon.

It’s unpacked further here.

“In sports, it’s a little different in that in the vast majority of cases relying on the placebo effect probably won’t hurt, and in many cases might actually help because of the power of belief. Aside from some potential BO, is it really a problem that an athlete regularly wears the same t-shirt under his uniform to help with on-field success? In fact, savvy coaches regularly use various placebo approaches when trying to help their team with belief — and often these tactics work.”

‘Useless’ surgery is still popular

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It seems that the placebo ‘hierarchy’ still plays out – a pill is trumped by a saline injection, which is trumped by ‘surgery’. Studies suggest that patients in the USA are opting for ineffective knee surgery in the belief this will relieve pain, even though it is likely that such an effect is … well, a placebo effect

“I personally think the operation should not be mentioned.” … But if a doctor says anything, Dr. Guyatt suggests saying this: “We have randomized clinical trials that produce the highest quality of evidence. They strongly suggest that the procedure is next to useless. If there is any benefit, it is very small and there are downsides, expense and potential complications.”

Prescribe a placebo?

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In Why Placebos Really Work: The Latest Science the Wall Street Journal points to the increasing frequency of ‘serious’ science envisioning health interventions that consciously include placebos and invoke the placebo effect. It seems the mind-body divide is something of an illusion!

Nevertheless, even though at least 50% of doctors actively prescribe placebos – often active drugs in such low doses that there is no apparent therapeutic benefit, or vitamins, antibiotics or over-the-counter analgesics like aspirin – they are still disinclined to prescribe a sugar pill. I guess they feel like it’s cheating, somehow.