It’s just a matter of belief – The Placebo Effect

Written By Arhama Gufran

The human mind is a stressor as well as a de-stressor. If it has the capacity to release adrenaline then it can release oxytocin as well, in order to keep you at peace. Your brain can be a healer if given a chance. The idea that your brain can convince your body that a fake treatment is a real thing is nothing but the so called placebo effect.

A placebo can be any inert substance that is designed to have no therapeutic value, and therefore a placebo effect is any psychological or physiological effect that a placebo treatment has on an individual.

In early clinical trials, the capabilities of a drug were measured against a group of people who took no medication. However, a simple act of taking empty tablets can produce the placebo effect .A drug is approved when it produces a greater effect than a placebo.

The kind of effect shown by a placebo depends on the size and color of the tablets. Sometimes, a capsule is found to be more effective than a tablet.

Placebos can reduce the symptoms of parkinson’s disease, depression, anxiety and fatigue.

The placebo effect changes from individual to individual and it’s strength varies from one disease to the next. Below are few factors which are involved in placebo effect:

(1) Expectations and conditions: One of the key factor because of which the placebo works is the expectations of individuals taking them. The expectations can be from the doctor or from the substance or from the treatment. These expectations can cause a drop in stress hormone. On the other hand, if the individual does not expect good results or expects some side effects, then the placebo can generate negative outcomes, then it is called Nocebo.

(2) THE PLACEBO EFFECT AND THE BRAIN: Brain imaging studies have found measurable changes in the neural activity of people experiencing placebo anlgesia. Areas that have been implicated include parts of the brain stem, spinal cord, nucleus accumbens, and amygdala. Strong placebo responses have also linked to increase in dopamine and opioid receptor activity. Both of these chemicals are involved in reward and motivation pathways in the brain.

3) PSYCHONEUROIMMUNOLOGY: It studies the direct effect of brain activity on immune system. Expecting improvements in health can impact the efficacy of an individual’s immune system. The pathway by which brain impacts the immune system are complex but there is a possibility that this type of interaction plays a role in placebo effect.

4) EVOLVED HEALTH REGULATION: The body of mammals have developed helpful physiological responses to pathogens. For example fever helps in removing bacteria and viruses from the body by elevating the temperature.

However,as these responses come at a cost the brain decides when it will carry out a certain response.The evolved brain theory suggests that a strong belief in a medication or intervention might relieve symptoms.

CONCLUSION: Placebos have discovered new areas of research in the field of medical sciences. The idea of placebo effect might sound unethical but the point here is that they do not cure the disease, they simply relieve the symptoms by triggering the nervous system.

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