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Placebos Can Bring Emotional Relief

Just as placebos have been shown to bring relief from pain, researchers
have now found that they can affect emotion, alleviating the impact of
unpleasant experiences. In an article in the June 16, 2005, issue of
Neuron, researchers led by Predrag Petrovic of the Karolinska Institutet
show that, in relieving anxiety, placebo treatment affects the same
basic modulatory circuitry in the brain as it does for relieving pain.
In their experiments, the researchers tested the effect of placebo
treatment on volunteer subjects' ratings of unpleasant pictures, such
as images of mutilated bodies. Other researchers had shown that
people's expectation of pain relief plays a major role in the
effectiveness of placebos. So, in their experiments, the researchers
first induced such an expectation in the subjects by administering an
antianxiety drug to reduce the subjects' unpleasant perception of the
pictures. They then administered an antidote to the drug, telling the
subjects that it would restore the unpleasant perception.
In tests the following day, the subjects were told they would receive
the same drugs. Instead, they received a saline solution as a placebo
when they saw the pictures. The subjects' brains were also scanned
during these experiments using functional magnetic resonance
imaging (fMRI). This scanning technique uses harmless magnetic fields
and radio waves to measure blood flow in brain regions, which reflects
brain activity.
The researchers found that the placebo reduced the subjects' ratings of
the unpleasant pictures by about 29%. Importantly, the fMRI scans
showed that the placebo reduced activity in the brain's emotional
centers, and this reduction correlated with a subject's amount of
reduction in the rated unpleasantness of the pictures. That is, the
subjects who reported the largest placebo response also showed the
largest decrease in activity in the emotional centers.
Also importantly, the placebo increased brain activity in the same
"modulatory network" whose activity is increased when placebos have
been used to relieve pain.
The researchers found that, as in placebo treatment for pain,
expectation played a major role in effectiveness. Those subjects who
expected the largest effect--as measured by the effect they reported
from the real antianxiety drug the previous day--showed the largest
changes in activity in the emotional and modulatory areas.

"The present data demonstrate that emotional experience may be


modulated through a placebo treatment in a similar manner as has
been previously reported for pain perception," concluded Petrovic and
his colleagues. They wrote that the study "demonstrated that very
similar mechanisms are involved in the placebo response of emotional
stimuli and in placebo analgesia, thereby generalizing the concept of
placebo and its associated underlying neural processes." They also
concluded that the placebo effect could be thought of "as a general
process of modulation induced by the subjects' expectations, possibly
using specific modulating systems."
Date: 2005-06-16
URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050616061459.ht
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SUMMARY:
The researchers found that the placebo reduced the subjects' ratings of
the unpleasant pictures by about 29%. Importantly, the fMRI scans
showed that the placebo reduced activity in the brain's emotional
centers, and this reduction correlated with a subject's amount of
reduction in the rated unpleasantness of the pictures. That is, the
subjects who reported the largest placebo response also showed the
largest decrease in activity in the emotional centers.
Also importantly, the placebo increased brain activity in the same
"modulatory network" whose activity is increased when placebos have
been used to relieve pain.
The researchers found that, as in placebo treatment for pain,
expectation played a major role in effectiveness.
REACTION:
The mind still has mysterious effects at our body, be it in a good
or bad way. In a good way, the placebo drugs are responsible for
triggering desired effects (especially as pain relievers) through
medicine, which compromise only a saline solution that has no
medicinal effect at all.
These placebo drugs have recently shown added emotional
control effect that normal antianxiety drugs would incur to the patient.
In correlation, it is highly likely to have an emotional stability since the
mental state of the patient is focused on already feeling the effects of
the supposedly wonder drug that gives a positive outlook of health.

Harnessing the power of the mind is never a curse or a bane for


a researchers purpose. Rather, it is actually dictating the other effects
of drugs not only physiologically but psychologically as well. This is
where comparison of whichever is more efficient & safe for a patients
overall recovery and health should be scrutinized in a thorough
fashion.
RECOMMENDATION:
Since placebos are still being monitored for its pros and cons,
there is a dire need for meticulous observation and gathering of data
for more comparative analysis and interpretation of its purposes and
effects. What must be also noted is the presence of differing mind
outlooks as some may have stronger will powers than others who are
depressed or are feeling hopeless or powerless against their current
medical condition.