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A View from David Appell

Brain Chemistry and the Placebo Effect

To date all studies of the placebo effect have relied on anecdotal data, viz., qualitative responses as reported by the patient. But a new study that explored brain chemistry found that patients who were suffering with pain released more natural…

  • August 25, 2005

To date all studies of the placebo effect have relied on anecdotal data, viz., qualitative responses as reported by the patient. But a new study that explored brain chemistry found that patients who were suffering with pain released more natural painkilling endorphins after the placebos were administered.

“This deals another serious blow to the idea that the placebo effect is purely psychological, with no physical basis,” said Dr. Jon-Kar Zubieta, associate professor of psychiatry and radiology at the Michigan Medical School. “The mind-body connection is quite clear.”
It’s amazing if you think about it–too bad administering placebos in actual medical practice is considered unethical. I once had a bout of chronic pain, and if I ever have another one I wouldn’t mind one bit if a physician prescribed me a placebo that he had convinced me would relieve my pain. I doubt it would take much convincing, either.

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