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Posts Tagged ‘Placebo effect’

placebo_In a series on the “use and potential risks” of alternative medicine, the AP (http://tinyurl.com/placebo-effect 11/11, Marchione) reports, “The placebo effect looms large in alternative medicine, which has many therapies and herbal remedies based on beliefs versus science.” According to Dr. Robert Ader, a psychologist at the University of Rochester, “placebos can have real and beneficial effects.” In fact, “the placebo effect accounts for about a third of the benefits of any treatment — even carefully tested medicines, scientists say.” But, “scientists do not always know” how the placebo effect works, and “there are many possible ways.” Brain images have revealed that “beliefs…can cause biological changes and affect levels of chemical messengers and stress hormones that signal pain or pleasure.” People’s “emotions, too, can trigger physical changes.” Meanwhile, “some placebo effects are due to conditioning, or ascribing benefits to something you did that may in fact have played no role in your improvement.”

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placebo_The Los Angeles Times (10/15, Kaplan) “Booster Shots” blog reported, “Scientists like to say the placebo effect is all in your head. Turns out, it’s actually in your spinal cord.” Researchers in Germany reached that conclusion after convincing “15 men to test a ‘lidocaine cream’ that was strong enough to work as a local anesthetic.” That ointment was applied inside a green box inked onto their forearms, while a “control cream” was rubbed inside a red box. “After waiting 10 minutes for the ‘lidocaine’ to take effect, they applied a hot stimulus to one of the squares and kept it there for 20 seconds. Then they tested the other square.”  In short, the men “experienced the placebo effect, just as the researchers had planned,” WebMD (10/15, Hitti) noted. “MRI scans taken during the tests showed less activity in the dorsal horn of the men’s spinal cords, which is involved in sensory perception, when their arms had been treated with the fake painkiller cream. Exactly how that happened isn’t clear.” But the paper in Science “may open up ‘new avenues’ for assessing the efficacy and action of new pain treatments.” The UK’s Press Association (10/16) also covers the story.

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