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Medicine

Placebo Effect Caught In the Act In Spinal Nerves 167

Posted by kdawson
from the time-to-shut-down dept.
SerpensV passes along the news that German scientists have found direct evidence that the spinal cord is involved in the placebo effect (whose diminishing over time we discussed a bit earlier). "The researchers who made the discovery scanned the spinal cords of volunteers while applying painful heat to one arm. Then they rubbed a cream onto the arm and told the volunteers that it contained a painkiller, but in fact it had no active ingredient. Even so, the cream made spinal-cord neural activity linked to pain vanish. 'This type of mechanism has been envisioned for over 40 years for placebo analgesia,' says Donald Price, a neuroscientist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, who was not involved in the new study. 'This study provides the most direct test of this mechanism to date.'"
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Placebo Effect Caught In the Act In Spinal Nerves

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  • by foobsr (693224) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @09:11AM (#29976848) Homepage Journal
    Would be interesting to see if similar effects could be observed regards acupuncture which is rated to be in the realm of placebo by 'old school' medicine.

    CC.
    • by MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @09:27AM (#29977008)

      well, according to my understanding of the placebo effect its entirely mind over matter, so i could wave a TV remote at your face and say that this is more effective for pain relief than Morphine. if you believe it, it just may be. i'm personally a fan of placebos, though many arent. truthfully, if it works, it doesnt matter if i'm being tricked, and as i put my flamesuit on because i can feel whats coming, having worked in the medical field, including emergency medicine i can honestly say that any instances where an emergency is occurring i've _never_ seen a placebo used. efficacy is more important in a situation where life and death is concerned. if you have a 'tension hedache' and you're seeking prescription medication, dont bitch and moan when your headache disappears from a sugar pill.

      • by Shikaku (1129753)

        Probably something only semi-related, but there is a way to harness such a thing for your own use. It isn't the placebo effect per se, but the causes are the same: you can make yourself believe you can make your pain go away, and it does. I use pain-killers like once every few months because of this.

        • by TheLink (130905)
          In the past number of years, I've mainly only had pain killers for surgery and tooth extraction. I don't find paracetamol useful for me - it doesn't seem to make severe pain go away much, and I can cope with minor pain. I'd be happy to take the placebo effect for pain if it works well enough for me.

          There's a lot of signals the brain sends OUT. Hence the brain may be telling the spinal nerves - "That's not important, don't bother us now OK?".

          After all you hear of people with very severe injuries who manage t
      • by rtb61 (674572) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @09:57AM (#29977354) Homepage

        Hardly mind over matter, simply a bio-chemical organ that can be induced to produce a range of neurotransmitters and hormones based upon psychological states. Don't be fooled though, whilst reactions might be controllable and the negative impact that stress and tension has upon recovery can be alleviated when a supportive environment is provided, it will not change the nature of the ailment itself. So a placebo is not really a placebo but a psychological treatment to assure the patient and alleviate stress and tension, which allows natural healing processes to function more effectively.

        Note dependent upon the background of the patient this can also include religious support as long as the belief is there and of course the illness falls within scope of natural healing processes which would otherwise be circumscribed by fear and stress. No mind over matter, no miracle cures although of course genetic diversity and probability allows for luck to cure the most lethal of ailments, you know one in a million don't bet on it though as you far more likely to end up in the 999,999 group.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ubermiester (883599) *

          Hardly mind over matter, simply a bio-chemical organ that can be induced to produce a range of neurotransmitters and hormones based upon psychological states

          How are the two different exactly? The "bio-chemical" organ you refer to is, I suppose, is the brain? If that's the case, most experts - such as yourself - say the brain is where most people keep their mind (though new research suggests many male subjects keep their mind in a different organ closer to the waist). And the "range of neurotransmitters and hormones" produced based on "psychological states" would appear to be the mind interacting with that oh so squishy matter we call our central nervous sys

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @10:03AM (#29977448)

        The problem is when someone mistakes treating symptoms for treating causes. If you feel better, but you're still dying, then you're still dying.

        • by that IT girl (864406) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @10:27AM (#29977750) Journal
          Mod UP--this is what a lot of drugs do, one of the worst offenders being statin drugs for high cholesterol. In addition to causing muscle-degenerative problems after long-term use, artificially lowering the cholesterol in the bloodstream does not solve the actual problem, which is the reason it was there to begin with. Long story short, cholesterol is what 'patches up' holes in the vessel walls caused by wear and tear, foreign particles in the blood, or (big one here) inflammation. And some of the biggest things that cause inflammation in general are refined sugars, foods one has an allergy or sensitivity to (dairy and wheat being big ones), "bad" fats (omega-6 rather than omega-3) and of course smoking. Getting rid of the cholesterol doesn't get rid of the inflammation, and in fact makes your body unable to repair the damage as well. Fix the underlying problem and the amount of cholesterol will go down.

          Sorry to go off on a tangent, but this is something I've done a lot of research on lately, and it's something that seems to get ignored by the mainstream. I'm guessing it's mostly because curing the source of a problem means the drug companies can't make money off someone as long, perpetually suppressing the outward symptoms while the real issue continues to fester. It's like continuing to spray air-fresheners and light scented candles around the garbage can instead of just taking the stinking bag out.
          • To save you all the trouble of pointing it out--I realise this was poorly worded. I'm at work and trying to do too many things at one time. I apologise, and I hope some of the phrasing doesn't take away from the message I was trying to convey.
          • Thanks its something to think about, my cholesterol has been lowered with statins to 3.7 yet my health seems worse.
            I just had to be stented for the 2nd time in less than 4 months.

            I think I need to research more myself.

            • by MikeURL (890801)
              IMO Statins really should only be used for people who have a genetic disorder that caused their cholesterol to go to insane levels. For generic "elevated" cholesterol I think that diet and exercise can go a long way. Supplementing with quality fish oil (I like the one from Swanson's) as well as using supplemental fiber can help. Diet does not have much impact on levels as far as I can tell but for some people it does seem to matter a lot.

              Also, the ratio is supposed to matter and that is what you poste
              • by dgatwood (11270)

                3.7, assuming that's mg/dL, is dangerously low. High is having total cholesterol over 240 mg/dL. Anything under 200 is safe. For LDL, you should try to keep it under 40 mg/dL. For HDL, you should try to keep it *above* 60 mg/dL.

                Also, IMHO, triglyceride levels are much more important. Try to keep that as low as possible and the cholesterol won't be as much of a problem.

                It's a curious thing, but of the statins, though they all reduce blood cholesterol to similar levels, only one of them actually reduces

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by plague3106 (71849)

            Whoa, careful there on the "bad" fats label.

            We NEED saturated fats. Men use it to produce testosterone. It's also used to repair tissue. In fact, new research shows its the carbs doing the damage, as men which replaced bad carbs with "bad" fat LOWERED their bad cholesterol. Sounds like more research is needed.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by raygundan (16760)

            I doubt you'll find a doctor who would prescribe these drugs without first suggesting you get off your arse and do some exercise. Nobody does this, of course, so prescriptions for these drugs get handed out as the next best thing when a patient won't do what is needed for themselves. It's not some huge profit conspiracy, although there is certainly profit involved-- but if you end up on statins without having given a serious effort at altering diet and exercise, it's your own fault.

        • by bckrispi (725257)
          Not all diseases whose symptoms are cured by placebo are life threatening. One area that this research could revolutionize is chronic pain management.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lord Ender (156273)

        i'm personally a fan of placebos, though many arent. truthfully, if it works, it doesnt matter if i'm being tricked

        The problem is that the people who practice placebo treatment never just sell themselves as providing pain relief; they sell magical cures for real medical problems which need real medicine.

        I would be happy if the FDA allowed "alternative pain management" to be sold and regulated, so long as they threw everyone claiming their hocus-pocus cured diseases into prison. Can you imagine how wonderful

        • by plague3106 (71849)

          Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to see chiropractors [snip] behind bars.

          Ya, well, I was refered to one by my doctor for an injury. I fully expected it not to work and to be back at the doctor saying as much, and to be in surgery shortly after.

          • by plague3106 (71849)

            Opps... I had more and cut it by mistake. It did work and the pain is greatly reduced.

          • Not all chiropractors are crooks; he may provide help for pain. But chiropractic is a profession which encourages con artists. When they claim to cure skin diseases and the like, you know they're the bad sort.

      • by MikeURL (890801)
        The saddest thing is to watch people get "drunk" off water that was put in a vodka bottle.

        I'm not sure WHY that seem so pathetic to me. Maybe it just highlights how truly tenuous our perception of reality is.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        Your understanding is wrong.

        This study shows that it isn't mind of matter. I read the study last week, and to my mind it is poorly worded, but the data methods seem good enough to warrant further study.

      • if you have a 'tension hedache' and you're seeking prescription medication
        Tension headaches are best treated with sex, followed by a upper neck muscle rub.

        Just don't ever try sex for a migraine.

    • by TwistedGreen (80055) <twistedgreen&gmail,com> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @09:30AM (#29977036)
      Acupuncture has been analyzed and re-analyzed to death already. There has never been any reliable effect, and as studies become increasingly more well-designed, effect sizes diminish or disappear completely. This is a sign that there is nothing happening. Amusingly, acupuncture with fake needles is consistently shown to be just as effective as real acupuncture. It's telling that proponents often consider that to be evidence in favour of acupuncture.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tangential (266113)
        I always wondered if those videos from China showing cows undergoing surgery using acupuncture as a pain blocker were faked. Hard to believe that there could be any placebo effect with animals.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by bluesatin (1350681)

          Would conditioning apply in things like reducing pain, or does it only apply to voluntary actions?

          If you give a painkiller while poking an animal in a certain location repeatedly, if you remove the painkiller without it being able to tell; will the poking elicit the same response as with the painkiller?

        • by Carewolf (581105) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @09:48AM (#29977230) Homepage

          Cows doesn't have inner pain receptors like humans do. They only feel the pain from breaking the skin, but no pain from a doctor operating inside. For this reason operations and experiments on cows often happens using nothing but a local anesthesia to numb the skin.

          • Cows doesn't have inner pain receptors like humans do. They only feel the pain from breaking the skin, but no pain from a doctor operating inside. For this reason operations and experiments on cows often happens using nothing but a local anesthesia to numb the skin.

            That explains a lot. Without inner pain receptors and with their tough skin that wouldn't really notice the needles, it would be easy to make acupuncture appear compellingly real.

          • by blackest_k (761565) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @10:34AM (#29977842) Homepage Journal

            Pain is where you find it, its certainly not everywhere in the human body.
            I had a stent put in my heart last week and the only anesthetic needed is a local in the groin where they feed the wire in.

            I also have to inject myself in the stomach twice a day and there are some sites which will hurt and others which are completely painless. I just gently prod with the needle till i find a pain free spot and just let the needle sink in under its own weight.

            I'd also rate dental pain as probably the worst pain in the male body , it's possible child birth might be more painful but we have no way of knowing. I believe cancer tops all other pain.

            Getting my fingers and hands sliced up in an attempted mugging about the same as a wasp sting (a brief sharp pain). Heart attack is about the same as a tattoo but scary.

            best pain killer has to be morphine not just for the pain relief but for the relaxed attitude , you just don't feel panic or fear. If I have a choice in how I die other than in my sleep it would be whilst under the influence of morphine.

            • by gblackwo (1087063) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @10:42AM (#29977972) Homepage

              I believe cancer tops all other pain.

              Had Leukemia, didn't hurt at all. Some of the stuff to treat it did though.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              I'd also rate dental pain as probably the worst pain in the male body

              You've obviously never passed a kidney stone.

            • by TheLink (130905)
              > If I have a choice in how I die other than in my sleep it would be whilst under the influence of morphine.

              Well if I had to be _executed_ for some reason, I'd want it to be via explosives around my head.

              The idea is that the explosion/detonation travels faster than nerve impulses. So there's no way I'd feel any pain (other than perhaps the mental anguish - so perhaps - just knock me out then do the explosive stuff just to be sure :) ).

              Stuff like the lethal injection or electrocution seem to be torture in
              • I always figured deterrent value was why they didn't just use a whole lot of chloroform.

                • by TheLink (130905)
                  If one really wants deterrent value, then executing someone painfully in a few minutes or seconds isn't the worst thing you can do to someone.

                  The marvels of modern medical technology allow people to be kept alive under very extraordinary or even extreme circumstances.

                  So either kill them quick and painlessly, or make them wish they were dead for the rest of their "way too long" lives, or forget this sort of stuff and just keep them healthy and well in prison.

                  The common popular execution methods are just crud
                  • The current methods might be the worst they think they can get past the courts. Yes, I realize they could always do breaking on the wheel, a headcrusher, or some modern updates.

            • I'd also rate dental pain as probably the worst pain in the male body , it's possible child birth might be more painful but we have no way of knowing. I believe cancer tops all other pain.

              According to people I know that have had all three(dental, child birth(for the women), and cancer), kidney stones are way worse.

              Apparently for kidney stones, you break out the Demerol and pray. :P

              But everyone has different parts of their bodies that are more or less sensitive. For me, my fingers are very sensitive. Accidentally poking them with something sharp is about as painful as when I stepped on a nail. My parents have a woodstove, and I used to have to load it. Slivers were nasty - my fingers would be

          • by Twinbee (767046)

            How far do inner pain receptors actually go in humans?

          • by DeadboltX (751907)
            Imagine how much it would suck to be a cow if they DID have inner pain receptors. Being devoured live by wolves and such...
      • You kinda slept through the part where he was talking about acupuncture as being effective due to the placebo effect?
      • by plague3106 (71849)

        I think you're missing the point here. Whether or not acupuncture actually does something is irrelevent; if it makes you FEEL better, then its done something. One use is stress relief; if you come out feeling less stress, then it worked, didn't it, regardless of which needles were used or where they were placed.

    • The Point? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LKM (227954)

      I don't quite understand your point. We already know that acupuncture works. We also know why it works: it works 100% through the placebo effect. This newly discovered mechanism may or may not apply to acupuncture, but it doesn't really matter; we already know that acupuncture has no specific activity for the condition that is being treated. This new discovery does not change this simple fact, and thus does not require us to re-analize acupuncture.

      The results would be exactly the same as earlier tests.

    • First off, acupuncture has be double blind studied. It has no effect above a placebo*. The is standard medical testing. If it doesn't have an effect above a placebo, it's not considered medical effective.

      Second, Acupuncture relies on mystic belief, not actual knowledge of how the body works.

      Third, A placebo effect doesn't cure ANYTHING. It may make you feel better. It's important to know that before spending money on it. In fact, getting a gentle back rub from a loved one has the same effect, and it's cheap

  • Not diminishing. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot@NOSPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @09:13AM (#29976864) Homepage Journal

    The placebo effect isn't getting weaker, it's getting more effective. The /. article linked even states that. It the reason why if prozac was a new drug today it more than likely would have been rejected by the FDA.

    Also see these Wired & TechDirt articles.

    http://www.wired.com/medtech/drugs/magazine/17-09/ff_placebo_effect?currentPage=all [wired.com]

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090827/0212446014.shtml [techdirt.com]

  • Weren't the ears and eyes of the voluneers also involved? If they hadn't heard the claim, it wouldn't have had the same effect (and did they actually have a control where they rubbed a cream without saying it would diminish pain, perhaps saying it would prevent damage to the skin or perhaps even that it would make it hurt more?). I'd have RTFA except it's behind a paywall.
    • Here is the abstract. [sciencemag.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TwistedGreen (80055)
      Yes, that's the point. The study is showing physiological effects of patient expectation. Patient expectation is based on past experience, cultural beliefs, and whatever the doctor (or any other person in authority, for that matter) tells you, even if the treatment is just an inert cream or a sugar pill. This study is just confirmation that when a patient claims to feel less pain, there is actual nervous system activity to support this perception.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @09:18AM (#29976910)

    I have chronic headache and have been a subject in studies. It is well-known that anticipation is an observable component to pain notification and response. To an almost hilarious extent, pain is like gravity in cartoons: if you don't believe it exists, you're less likely to experience it.

    captcha: scratchy (they fight...)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by adamchou (993073)

      if you don't believe it exists, you're less likely to experience it

      well, in that same sense, is it possible that the headache is only there because you believe it to be there? with all due respect, i don't know your medical background. just throwing out food for thought.

    • by Jay L (74152) *

      To an almost hilarious extent, pain is like gravity in cartoons: if you don't believe it exists, you're less likely to experience it.

      This is awesome. I wish you'd de-anonymize so I could quote you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @09:29AM (#29977032)

    Bend over... this won't hurt a bit... I've got some special cream to rub in...

  • by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @09:40AM (#29977146)
    I gotta say, posting a link claiming the placebo effect is "diminishing over time" when that link is to a Slashdot article saying precisely the opposite is a new low.

    Hell, you don't even have to click on the link: you can see what it actually says just by reading the URL!
    • by Dun Malg (230075)
      Slashdot janitors, hard at work. What I want to know is how did KDawson find the link to the story in order to include it in this one, and completely fail to read even the headline?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hurricane78 (562437)

      Yeah, way to go, mixing up two time scales, just to bash kdawson again.
      While I agree that he may not be the greatest story poster, this time, you was way over your head.

      Because what he meant, is that when you apply the placebo, then because one expects the effect of a medicine to diminish after a certain time, the body simulates that for placebos too.
      And what you meant, is that placebos nowadays work better than they worked e.g. decades ago.

      These are two totally different time scales.
      Imagine it as taking a

      • I don't see this diminishing effect mentioned at all in the linked summary, which still indicates that the link goes to an article that is not accurately described by the link's text content. At the very least, it's a poorly worded summary, which confirms yet again that kdawson is an incompetent editor.
    • by hey! (33014)

      You don't understand. This means kdawson is moving backwards through time.

      Come to think of it, that explains a lot.

  • Your mind (Score:3, Insightful)

    by s-whs (959229) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @09:42AM (#29977162)

    > Even so, the cream made spinal-cord neural activity linked to pain vanish.

    The cream did no such thing, the people's minds did this. It's quite unsurprising that as the brain processes pain (which is just information about damage to tissue), that the brain can also switch it (the processing, i.e. feeling) off.

    I can do this whenever I want. First time I did this when I was 12 or so, and for the umpteenth time the lid of the kettle to boil water for tea fell off, and I burnt my hand. Painful and annoying. I said to myself: Enough, no more pain! And gone it was. Not really anything special I believe, see e.g. fakirs.

    Of course the 'placebo effect' is more than just turning off pain, it's also about getting better without medicine, i.e. making your body do things to repair itself. This I also do consciously (i.e. I tell myself that my immune system should work harder to kill the 'intruders' :)) and may be the reason why I'm almost never ill, and when I am, I recover very quickly (I never go to a doctor).

    Reminds me of a Married with children episode btw.:
        [ Al ] I feel strong!
            { Peggy says something }
        [ Al ] I feel weak...

    (paraphrasing).

    • Unless you have a terminal disease, everyone gets better without medicine. It's an example of regression to the mean, which is one phenomenon that falls under the placebo category in clinical trials. It is not really an effect in itself.

      Pain is a special case because it is so subjective, and can be easily modulated by attention. If you don't pay attention to the pain, it's not as intense. This study is only confirming this one effect.
    • Interestingly, pain is good for you as it decreases the amount of exposure to danger you are willing to take, so evolution would select against people that don't hate (or even enjoy) pain.

      Of course, too much sensitivity and you run into some other evolutionary problems, I think we've got it about right, most of us.

    • The cream did no such thing, the people's minds did this. It's quite unsurprising that as the brain processes pain (which is just information about damage to tissue), that the brain can also switch it (the processing, i.e. feeling) off.

      Did you read TFA, or even the summary?

      What they've confirmed is that the pain signal doesn;t even make it to the brain for processing. There is no pain signal when the placebo effect is working.

      It's quite unsurprising that as the brain processes pain (which is just informat

      • by TheLink (130905)
        Yeah and guess what told the spinal nerves to shut up? The cream or the brain?
        • Oh, so now your proposed mechanism is changing? That is, instead of ignoring and deciding not to process the pain signal (which is what was originally proposed), now the brain is telling the spinal nerves to stop?

          Seems to me like you don't have an understanding of pain physiology, and you're making things up as you go along...
          • by TheLink (130905)
            Seems to me like you can't read and you're making things up as you go along.
            • Oooh... an attempt at a witty retort!

              Let me ask you a question... did you tell yourself to be more witty so that you could come up with that? Or does that only work for "fighting off the intruders"?

              No hard feelings... but the using the cream caused the subjects to have fewer pain signals transmitted. The cream didn't cause it by itself, and the mind didn't cause the placebo effect by itself. You may not need an indirect object to induce the placebo effect in yourself, since you believe you don't need o
  • by skgrey (1412883) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @09:43AM (#29977182)
    I have a degenerative disease, have had a laminectomy, bone spur removals, and have some messed up disks and nerve damage. I've been in some amount pain for about six years and have run the medicine gauntlet.

    From experience, I've been prescribed medicine where the doctor's told me "this is much better than what you are on, it will manage your pain much more effectively". I got all excited, and started taking it. On the first day I was miserable. The second and third days were even worse. After a week I switched back.

    I really think that the placebo effect only works for small amounts of pain, or for certain kinds of pain (there are a lot of different types). In my case, I ended up with a spinal implant (kind of like an internal tens unit) and take a small amount of medicine to manage the pain. It still hurts every day, but I get by much better and work a 40 to 50 hour week and raise kids.
    • by wytcld (179112)

      One source of modern awareness of the placebo effect came in WWII, in an incident (as I recall in Italy) where troops severely injured on the battlefield were treated by medics without a sufficient supply of morphine. They ended up giving some number of them shots without morphine, and despite the severity of the injuries many of those troops responded just as if morphine had been administered.

      So the placebo can work for large amounts of acute pain. Reports for effectiveness in managing long-term chronic pa

      • by geekoid (135745)

        You are confusing the korean war with WWII...also, you're confusing real life with a MASH episode.

        "So the placebo can work for large amounts of acute pain. "
        No it can't.

        "And as with hypnosis - whether or not it's a related phenomenon - there's great variability in the population as to whether it has much effect."
        Yes, those who want to act like a chicken, and those who don't.

        • "So the placebo can work for large amounts of acute pain. "
          No it can't.

          I thought people were undergoing surgery with acupuncture instead of anaesthetic and this was the described mechanism?

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      but I get by much better and work a 40 to 50 hour week and raise kids.

      Dude, just FYI: regularly working 40-50 hours a week is absurd, even for a healthy person. I'd strongly suggest finding an employer that doesn't expect your job to be your life.

    • by houghi (78078)

      Perhaps a reverse placebo effect. Or the medicine you take now triggers the placebo effect.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "I really think that the placebo effect only works for small amounts of pain"
      Yes.

      "r for certain kinds of pain (there are a lot of different types)."
      close. However it is important to note that there are difference kinds of placebo effects, and a placebo effect can have different effective depending. For example actually opening someone up and closing them will generally have a stronger placebo effect then giving them a sugar pill.

  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @09:47AM (#29977228)

    ... it make's sense that placebo effect exists because the ability to shut on and shut off pain perception is critical to human development.

    There is a condition where people feel no pain at all, see this article here of a girl who feels no pain.

    http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/conditions/02/03/btsc.oppenheim/ [cnn.com]

  • This is an interesting insight into the functioning of the nervous system in response to expectation. If anything, it shows the error in the phrase, "It's all in the head." The perception of pain, and indeed all neurological processes, are not incorporeal and can be shown to have actual physical mechanisms. More reason to dismiss anti-psychiatry claims such as those espoused by Scientology. Mental illness is physical illness, and while it may sometimes be treated by psychological means, it can also be treat
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by radtea (464814)

      The perception of pain, and indeed all neurological processes, are not incorporeal and can be shown to have actual physical mechanisms.

      Three hundred and fifty years after Willis et al showed that the brain was the physical seat of perception, it is incredible that the mythology of "mind over matter" is even coherent to anyone anymore: mind is matter. Why anyone believes otherwise is a mystery.

      Yet we still see people in response to this article saying "the placebo effect isn't an effect", as if the physiol

  • The placebo effect is not at all just about pain - in many cases, it is considerably more powerful than the drugs the Doctor prescribes. A rational medical system would spend considerable resources on studying ways to improve the placebo effect. It is a pretty good bet that exhaustive paper work and hospital green paint is not it.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "The placebo effect is not at all just about pain - in many cases, it is considerably more powerful than the drugs the Doctor prescribes."

      Absolutely false.

      "..studying ways to improve the placebo effect. I"
      You really have no clue what someone means when they talk about a placebo effect, do you?

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @10:39AM (#29977910)

    The researchers who made the discovery scanned the spinal cords of volunteers while applying painful heat to one arm. Then they rubbed a cream onto the arm and told the volunteers that it contained a painkiller, but in fact it had no active ingredient. Even so, the cream made spinal-cord neural activity linked to pain vanish.

    According to this, there's no way to tell whether it was the cream or the brain. The doctors didn't rub cream on anyone without telling them anything and/or rub cream on anyone saying that it contained suspended HCL? Tell people they were rubbing a pain killer powder on their skin? There was no control group? This wasn't a well planned experiment. Just having a soothing balm on the skin might be enough to lower heat pain. Speaking of which: did they try any other types of pain? Heat pain feels quite a bit different from impact pain.

  • Oh come on, guys (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Phroggy (441) <.moc.yggorhp. .ta. .3todhsals.> on Wednesday November 04, 2009 @11:44AM (#29979038) Homepage

    No active ingredient? They did apply a cream. If you've had painful heat applied to your arm, rubbing butter on it will make it feel better; lidocaine would feel MORE better*, but this isn't a sugar pill.

    * "Me fail English? That's unpossible!"

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "painful heat applied to your arm, rubbing butter on it will make it feel better; "

      NEVER put butter on a burn. Never Ever do that. Put it under cold water.

  • Here is a link to a review of the study, it will clear up most things peopel seemed confused about
    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=1130#more-1130 [theness.com]

    Here is a nice article on what a placebo effect is, may people here don't seem to understand the term.
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=1248 [sciencebasedmedicine.org]

  • the spinal cord is involved in the placebo effect

    Let's see... they're basically studying the way the of the brain perceives pain inflicted on the body. The spinal cord links the brain to the body. Now we have this astonishing discovery that the spinal cord is involved in this process. I am truly humbled by such revelations.

  • My Anecdote (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pwagle (13408)
    When I was 15, I had a bicycle wreck where I received major road-rash on my entire left side. Unable to tolerate the pain that evening enough to sleep, I went to the emergency room, where I was given codeine. That helped a lot. The next morning, I had to take a shower. Expecting that to hurt a lot, I, for some reason, decided to see if I could "shut off" the pain while exposing the road-rash to the running water. Somehow I did some mental twist that completely shut off the pain. My interpretation/gues

Arithmetic is being able to count up to twenty without taking off your shoes. -- Mickey Mouse

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