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Placebo's power goes beyond the mind
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of MSNBC News

MSNBC News, August 21, 2006
Posted: November 11th, 2006

For years, scientists have looked at the placebo effect as just a figment of overactive patient imaginations. Sure, dummy medications seemed to curb epileptic seizures, lower blood pressure, soothe migraines and smooth out jerky movements in Parkinson's -- but these people weren't really better. Now, using PET scanners and MRIs ... researchers have discovered that the placebo effect is not "all in patients' heads" but rather, in their brains. New research shows that belief in a dummy treatment leads to changes in brain chemistry. Says Dr. Michael Selzer, professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, "After pooh-poohing this for years, here are studies that show that our thoughts may actually interact with the brain in a physical way." New insights into how placebos work may even help scientists figure out how to harness the effect and teach people to train their own brains to help with healing. Studies in depressed patients ... have found that almost as many are helped by placebo treatments as by actual medications. Researchers are just starting to appreciate the power that the mind can have over the body. Part of what goes into the brain's interpretation is expectation. By changing the expectancy and bumping up the placebo response we might be able to ultimately find a way to provide sustained therapy for chronic pain.

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