What is now emerging as ‘placebo science’ has its roots in an influential 1955 paper entitled ‘The Powerful Placebo’ by Henry K. Beecher which proposed that placebo effects were clinically important. This remains the most commonly-cited placebo reference.
Henry Knowles Beecher (February 4, 1904 – July 25, 1976) was a pioneering American anesthesiologist, medical ethicist, and investigator of the placebo effect at Harvard Medical School, which now, fittingly enough, co-convenes the Program in Placebo Studies & Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS) with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
The prestigious Beecher Prize, named in his honor, is awarded annually by Harvard Medical School to a medical student who has produced exceptional work in the field of medical ethics.
The ‘open’ and ‘close’ buttons in elevators, the ‘hurry up cross now’ buttons on street crossings and even the thermostat controls in hotel rooms may all be making use of the placebo effect, claims The Sydney Morning Herald
“Is the placebo effect biologically real? We’re not sure. But, if it is, then it is safe to say that it evolved over time, that it confers some survival advantage, and most importantly, it should also be able to be seen in other organisms. It has been reported in rats on occasion. But, what if we could study the placebo effect in lower organisms like fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) or worms (Caenorhabditis elegans)?
In the study of aging, these tiny, but powerful animals who age quickly, make it easier to do many experiments in a shorter period of time. Worms, in particular, are a fantastic model for the field of dietary restriction (DR), a programmed method of reducing calorie intake and the most scientifically sound method of extending lifespan. But in worms, the extended lifespan offered through DR is disrupted by the smell of food which tricks their bodies out of DR mode and stops the extension of life.”
Check out Simon C. Harvey, Chris J. Beedie, “Studying placebo effects in model organisms will help us understand them in humans” Biology Letters. 29 November 2017 or read the ACSH article here.
We usually think of placebos as tools for therapy, or perhaps as marketing strategies, but here’s an idea about the placebo effect and creative thinking.
“The placebo effect is best known in medicine for making people feel better when they are given sham treatments. Now there is growing interest in using placebos to boost athletic and cognitive abilities.
Previous studies have found that people lift more weight and cycle harder when they take medicines with no active ingredients that are falsely labelled as performance-enhancing substances. Placebo pills have also been shown to improve scores in memory tests.
These findings prompted Lior Noy and Liron Rozenkrantz at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel to test whether the placebo effect can stimulate creativity too.
They asked 90 university students to sniff a substance that smelled of cinnamon. Half the students were informed that the substance had been designed to enhance creativity.
The participants then completed a series of tasks designed to test their creativity. One involved rearranging squares on a computer screen into different shapes. Another required them to think up new uses for everyday items like shoes, pins and buttons.
Those who were told the smelly substance increased creativity scored higher on measures of originality. For example, they came up with more unusual shape configurations and novel applications for the everyday items. “The improvements weren’t enough to turn you into the next Picasso, but they were significant,” says Noy.”
I’m afraid, so, folks. It seems the valiant, fleshy oyster’s reputation as an aphrodisiac may be be down to … you guessed it … the placebo effect.
My co-worker Zara literally told me every time she has an oyster, she feels a tingling sensation in her nipples. My mind was blown. What in the world?! Am I asexual? Why doesn’t that happen to me??!
I decide to consult with Dr. Nicole Prause, principal investigator at the Sexual Psychophysiology and Affective Neuroscience Lab at the University of California, to find out what’s actually going on in our brains every time we eat oysters.