Read anything interesting lately?
Today's mailbag included an article by Michael Brooks in a recent New Science,com about
13 THINGS THAT DON'T MAKE SENSE.
It's fascinating - check it out HERE.
The first thing that doesn't make sense is THE PLACEBO EFFECT.
The "sugar pill." YOu've heard about it maybe even seen it work, or had it work on yourself. I learned about it in high school. Then when I got to college, I babysat for a family that had a 4 month old girl who had what was then called "colic." My first time to babysit, the mother matter-of-factedly showed me a bottle of phenobarbitol, I think it was ... she explained that it stopped the colic, but that they no longer had to give her any, they just placed the tip of an empty eye dropper on the baby's tongue, and she would quiet. Now there's a placebo, thought I.
Here's what the article report:
1 The placebo effect
Induce pain several times a day in someone. Control the pain with morphine until the last day of the experiment. Then replace the morphine with saline solution and ... the saline takes the pain away.
Now researcher Fabrizio Benedetti of the University of Turin in Italy did this experiment and added a twist -- he added naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of morphine, to the saline. The shocking result? The pain-relieving power of saline solution disappeared.
It other words, just when you think the effect is "all in the mind," it really isn't. The naxolene appears to show that the effect is biochemical.
The article continues:
Benedetti has since shown that a saline placebo can also reduce tremors and muscle stiffness in people with Parkinson's disease (Nature Neuroscience, vol 7, p 587). He and his team measured the activity of neurons in the patients' brains as they administered the saline. They found that individual neurons in the subthalamic nucleus (a common target for surgical attempts to relieve Parkinson's symptoms) began to fire less often when the saline was given, and with fewer "bursts" of firing - another feature associated with Parkinson's. The neuron activity decreased at the same time as the symptoms improved: the saline was definitely doing something.
We have a lot to learn about what is happening here, Benedetti says, but one thing is clear: the mind can affect the body's biochemistry. "The relationship between expectation and therapeutic outcome is a wonderful model to understand mind-body interaction," he says. Researchers now need to identify when and where placebo works. There may be diseases in which it has no effect. There may be a common mechanism in different illnesses. As yet, we just don't know.
To read more about the mind-body interface, read:
MOLECULES OF EMOTION : THE SCIENCE BEHIND MIND-BODY MEDICINE, Candace Pert, Ph.D.
The list price for this book is $15.00. To purchase it from Amazon.com
for $10.20, a 32% discount, go directly HERE.