April 27, 2017


A placebo really can mend a broken heart : The power of belief compels you (Sara Chodosh, 4/27/17, Popular Science)

 In this particular study, which came out in The Journal of Neuroscience, a group of psychologists and neuroscientists took 40 people who had experienced a breakup in the last six months and were shown pictures of their ex. They were prompted to recall the emotions associated with the breakup, and then had a hot stimulus applied to their arm. After this lovely experience, the participants were given a nasal spray that in reality contained basic saline solution, which has no medicinal effect on its own. The psychologists told half of the group that the spray just helped the MRI, but told the other half that the spray contained a medication that would alleviate both physical and emotional pain. Then they repeated the task of looking at pictures of their ex and recalling the unpleasant feelings they had surrounding the breakup, all while having a sharp pain applied to their arms.

The people who had the "medication" felt better about the breakup and felt less pain from the hot stimulus. And really, that shouldn't be surprising. Placebos can alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy, boost dopamine production in Parkinson's patients, improve breathing in asthmatics, and even relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Believing that something will make you feel better actually does. 

Posted by at April 27, 2017 7:59 AM