The placebo effect is a pervasive medical phenomenon. It occurs when someone responds to an inert treatment or an expectation of benefit in the same way that they would respond to an actual treatment. Experts don’t know exactly how or why, but there’s no disputing that a person given a placebo — be it a sugar pill, a saline injection or even sham surgery or sham acupuncture — will often experience a perceived or real improvement in their condition.Placebos with no active drug ingredients can trigger changes in brain chemistry, heart rate, and blood pressure. A placebo can even enhance short-term memory. Brain imaging techniques have shown that placebos have a measurable impact on brain activity.
In 1955, Henry K. Beecher postulated that placebos could have clinically significant effects. Scientists researching the neurobiology of the placebo effect have since determined that placebos and drugs convey effects through common physiological pathways. Placebos reduce pain — a phenomenon known as “placebo analgesia” — by activating the body’s innate painkilling mechanisms.
Enjoy this piece?
… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.
It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.
Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.