Inactive Ingredients

The Mind Hacks blog discusses new research in how the placebo effect works, via a recent BBC4 radio program.

However, recent work by psychologist Amir Raz has suggesting [sic] that both hypnosis and placebo may both work through the manipulation of attention, essentially influencing the focus of processing within the brain to alter how it regulates the body and mind.

Part of the discussion is whether hypnotic suggestibility is part of the placebo phenomenon itself or merely an indicator; i.e. are suggestion and placebo the same thing at work.

I’ve always believed in the efficacy of placebo, even when I’m knowingly trying to remedy myself with something that I know doesn’t have any basis in physiology.  I think part of this is a learned comfort response – when you’re young and sick, and your mom gives you soup and hugs, you “feel better” even though she hasn’t cured your cold.  We carry this response with us into adulthood, trying to use our own personal remedies and comfort routines to cure aches and pains and such, in a sort of medicinal cargo cult way.

When I’m sick in wintertime, I’ll take cold medicine and whatnot.  But I also drink lemoncello, because it reminds me of Sorrento and Capri and warm sun on my skin.  And though I know that alcohol and lemon rinds do absolutely nothing to relieve sinuses plugged with unspeakable goo, I’m happy to take the placebo effect that it gives me.

(via Seed)

posted 8/21/08 at 10:05am to Science! · 0 replies · permalink