Probably the most controversial, yet amazing aspect of medicine is the placebo effect. The idea that somehow, a simple sugar pill, or a drugless 'medicine' can provide pain relief and act as an effective treatment seems silly enough, however, it is actually true.
The science behind
Probably the most controversial, yet amazing
aspect of medicine is the placebo effect. The idea that somehow, a simple sugar
pill, or a drugless 'medicine' can provide pain relief and act as an effective
treatment seems silly enough, however, it is actually true.
Though numerous studies have
confirmed the effectiveness of the placebo effect, there was little evidence to
suggest how it actually worked. Thanks to the new research carried out by Tor
Wager, a PhD from the University of Michigan, the actual process behind the
entire placebo effect is now scientifically proven, and published in the
The study involved around two
dozen people, who were told that a pain relieving cream was being tested on
them, while only the researcher knew that it was just a placebo alternative.
To view the brain activity of
those subjected to the treatment, MRI scans were done while the subjects were
being subjected to a shock treatment after they had applied the 'pain relieving cream.'
The MRI scans revealed that the
prefrontal cortex region of the brain showed an activity which was similar to that
when an actual medicine is used.
Some amazing facts
Apart from human beings, animals,
especially dogs, have also demonstrated positive results when treated with
placebo effect. To confirm the existence of placebo effect in animals, a group
of epileptic dogs were taken as subjects, some of which were given a regular
drug and the others were given a placebo. Dogs showed extremely positive
reaction to the placebo as well.
Over the years, placebo has also
been shown to somehow heal physical injuries. 'Fake surgeries', wherein the
physicians performed no actual surgery, and just cut the patient open and sewed
him back together, have proved to be effective.
Yet another miracle is that the
placebo effect gets more powerful as time passes on. Several tests and studies
have demonstrated that when a person is ill, he visits a physician, takes some
pills and gets well soon enough, and this continues over the years with the
faith of health and recovery building up.
A few extras
As the placebo effect is completely dependent on the
perception and expectation, there may be various factors that can change the
perception level of the patient.
In case it is brought to the
notice of the patient that he is being treated with an ineffective drug or
injection, the placebo effect disappears, however, this may not be the case
with all patients, as some patients have demonstrated positive results after
being subjected to a placebo treatment.
A study revealed that cool
colored pills have proven to be good relaxants and hot colored pills as
stimulants. It also depends on the doctor as well; another study concluded that
a more kind and enthusiastic doctor increased the placebo effect in the patient
The duration of a placebo effect depends on the
medical condition that the patient is suffering from-2 and a half year for
rheumatoid arthritis, 6 months for angina pectoris and 8 weeks for panic