Medicine has increasingly looked to the placebo effect's seemingly mysterious power to make people feel better in the absence of painkillers or pharmaceutical drugs. Now researchers have used fMRI scanners to pinpoint specific cells in the spinal cord that they believe are responsible for this ability to deaden pain.
A part of the spinal cord near the lower neck, called the dorsal horn, normally lights up with pain response. But no pain-related neural activity showed when researchers applied a so-called painkiller cream, which in fact was a placebo containing no active medication.
An independent neuroscientist hailed the study as the most direct test of the placebo effect's pain-relieving properties to date. It also represents a first for researchers using fMRI to capture the placebo effect's neural activity in the spinal cord.
The research team applied painful heat to one arm of 13 volunteers, and then applied what they said was a painkiller cream and a control cream -- except that neither cream had active ingredients.
They also primed a response by turning down the painful heat for the painkiller cream in a first test run, and so tricked volunteers into thinking that the cream would work the next time. But actual tests with an MRI scanner on involved the same level of heat for both creams. Volunteers nonetheless reported less pain with the painkiller cream.
The researchers from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany told New Scientist that they could now better develop treatments to take advantage of the placebo effect's painkiller effect.
[via New Scientist]
A placebo should be the first line of defense for almost any ailment. Any time a patient sees a doctor with new symptoms they should prescribe a placebo first, and only if the ailment persists should we introduce drugs into the equation.
This is great research on the placebo effect.... its just too bad there's not much money in not selling drugs. Actually I've read (and if you do a quick google search of "cost of placebo" you will find) that increasing the perceived cost of the placebo increases its effectiveness. So maybe we should buy expensive sugar pills from well known drug manufacturers - a win for both parties.
Some say we are already effectively doing just that - because most anti depressants work only slightly better than their placebo counterparts, and that effectiveness can be attributed to other side effects of the drug causing patients at the experimental level to realize they are not getting the placebo, and this extra belief that they are getting real medicine increases the placebo effect (remember it only works if the patient believes it will).
The healing power of the mind will always trump pharmaceuticals.
from coral gables, fl
10/19/09 at 9:17 am
"Any time a patient sees a doctor with new symptoms they should prescribe a placebo first, and only if the ailment persists should we introduce drugs into the equation."
Placebos for cancer? lacerations? puncture wounds? crushing traumas? blunt for traumas? gunshot wounds?
bdhoro87: "A placebo should be the first line of defense for almost any ailment. Any time a patient sees a doctor with new symptoms they should prescribe a placebo first, and only if the ailment persists should we introduce drugs into the equation."
Of course, if this were mandated AND public knowledge...it would render the "placebo effect" completely useless. The "placebo" part means you don't know it ain't real =)
i am pretty sure that if you keep saying in your mind this wont work this wont work, it Probablly WONT work. now if u say over and over it will work your mind will say u feel better it work. this is all a mind game you can do the same thing with painkillers
Lol obviously not gunshot wounds and the like... although I'm sure it would help in addition to whatever stitching and other basic wound treatments are used. There is evidence that placebo's do effect cancer patients - but what happens more often is just the opposite of the placebo effect. When a doctor tells a patient "you have terminal cancer, with 6 months left to live," if the patient believes it, it will likely come true.
Placebo pills aren't the only form of the phenomenon - experiments with surgery for knee pain have shown that many common forms of knee surgery are no more effective than putting a patient to sleep, making incisions in the knee, closing them up, and telling the patient they really had knee surgery although they did not.
Ofcourse the real trick is, as zombieninja stated above, tricking patients into thinking they are receiving top quality medical care.
Come on people are you really that unaware. Pharmaceutical companies make billions a year. That's Billions with a capitol B. If a cure for cancer, diabetes, MS, Aids, the flu, common cold, etc. came out without the drug companies finger in it for billions they would do all they could to discredit it. And if that failed they'd put a hit out on you. Think of this, what happened to those batteries used in the EV1 when they called back all the cars and smashed them for scrap? I think the Pharmaceutical companies are at least as powerful as the oil companies. Oh, and buy the way the Pharmaceutical co. Are owned buy the big Chemical Companies like Dow etc. Just a thought....