Home » Intelligent Design, Mind, Neuroscience, News » When what you falsely think is happening aggravates your disease, you should know your mind is real

When what you falsely think is happening aggravates your disease, you should know your mind is real

As a recent article in The Scientist demonstrates:

“Nocebo” (meaning “I shall harm”) is the dastardly sibling of placebo (“I shall please”). In a placebo response, a sham medication or procedure has a beneficial health effect as a result of a patient’s expectation. Sugar pills, for example, can powerfully improve depression when the patient believes them to be antidepressants. But, researchers are learning, the reverse phenomenon is also common: negative expectations can actually cause harm.

When Parkinson’s patients undergoing deep brain stimulation were told that their brain pacemaker was going to be turned off, symptoms of their illness became more pronounced, even when the pacemaker was left on.2 When people with and without lactose intolerance were asked to ingest lactose, but were actually given glucose, 44 percent of those with lactose intolerance and 26 percent of those without it still complained of stomach pain. And men treated for an enlarged prostate with a commonly prescribed drug and told that the drug “may cause erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, [and] problems of ejaculation,” but that these effects were “uncommon,” were more than twice as likely to experience impotence as those who were not so informed.

On paper, it sounds like psychobabble—a negative effect caused by a sham treatment based on a patient’s expectations—but it is a real biochemical and physiological process, involving pain and stress pathways in the brain. And mounting evidence suggests that the nocebo effect is having a substantial negative impact on clinical research, medicine, and health. More.

It most certainly does not sound like psychobabble to anyone familiar with the placebo effect (the best attested effect in medicine, by which people who expect to feel better are more likely to do so than people who do not).

This most informative, and long overdue, article shows that different brain channels convey the undesirable nocebo effect, by which we feel worse if we expect to, from the channels that convey the placebo effect.

Medical programs, settings, and public service messages often convey unwanted nocebo effects, because the role of the mind in promoting health is not clearly acknowledged and understood. Here’s an example:

In 1987, a team of doctors in Ontario, Canada, suspected that medical consent forms might actually cause harm. Using the chance occurrence of two different consent forms being used for the same drug trial, they compared patient reactions to the wording of the forms. The trial pitted aspirin against sulfinpyrazone, a medicine already approved to treat gout, as a treatment for chest pain. Patients at two of the three centers hosting the trial were informed that “side effects are not anticipated beyond occasional gastrointestinal irritation and, rarely, skin rash.” At the third center, patients’ consent forms did not mention gastrointestinal effects. Seventy-six patients out of 399 (19 percent) given the first consent form that mentioned GI irritation withdrew from the study, citing GI issues, compared to just 5 out of 156 (3 percent) who received the second form.

One suggested option is to accentuate the positive:

A 1996 study from the University of Ottawa in Canada, for example, described the benefits and risks of a vaccine to 292 people, who had never been previously immunized, using two different approaches. Those who were told the percentages of vaccinated individuals who remain free of influenza and have no side effects had fewer side effects and missed less work than those told the percentages of people who acquire influenza and have side effects following vaccination.

The article is a gold mine of information that could help health care professionals improve treatment settings. What the patient thinks is happening is part of what is happening.

See also: The Spiritual Brain.

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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9 Responses to When what you falsely think is happening aggravates your disease, you should know your mind is real

  1. because the role of the mind in promoting health is not clearly acknowledged and understood

    What do you mean? The placebo effect is widely recognised in medical research and one of the main reasons why it is necessary to use double blinding. Clearly there is more to be learned about how it happens – so you could argue it is not widely understood – but there is no question that it is widely acknowledged.

    Neither the placebo or the nocebo effect are any kind of evidence for dualism. All they show is that mental events can influence your health. They show nothing about the nature of those mental events.

  2. Mark Frank, you do outdo yourself! If either the placebo or the nocebo effect were anywhere near widely recognized, as opposed to grudgingly accepted when the signal becomes overwhelming, medical and health care practices would be very different from what they are. And recognition lags because even health care practitioners have been attracted to mechanistic and materialist models. But if we have often been patients, we know all this.

  3. I managed a drug store for several years and had access to a lot of pharmaceutical information. What always struck me was how very minor a difference there was between a placebo and many drugs.

    That was one of the first things that got me to wondering – if the mind is capable of this, what else could it do for me?

  4. Growing up with both parents medical doctors, I was an overmedicated sickly child. Once I was on my own, it dawned on me that just being around doctors, let alone taking medications, can make you sick. As result, I haven’t gone to doctors, not even for a checkup, since 1991 (that’s the last time I visited the ‘old country’ where my parents live), yet feel better than ever. I do read health news and advice, so I can do the opposite – enjoy real old style tobacco, cholesterol rich fatty foods, eggs, butter, lard, red meat, hams and sausages (dry smoked German/Hungarian style), Mediterranean wines, chocolate, avoid strains of exercise,…

  5. Let’s deal in evidence not anecdotes. Go to Google scholar and enter “placebo effect”. I got just under 2 million hits. The titles on the first page were:

    Expectation and dopamine release: mechanism of the placebo effect in Parkinson’s disease
    The placebo effect in medical and psychological therapies
    [HTML] The functional neuroanatomy of the placebo effect
    Deconstructing the placebo effect and finding the meaning response
    [BOOK] Meaning, Medicine, and the” placebo Effect”
    [BOOK] The Placebo Effect: Interdisciplinary Exploration
    Oestrogen therapy and the menopausal syndrome.
    The placebo effect
    Psychotherapy and the placebo effect.
    Components of placebo effect: randomised controlled trial in patients with irritable bowel syndrome
    The placebo effect in alternative medicine: can the performance of a healing ritual have clinical significance?
    Effect of continuous positive airway pressure on blood pressure a placebo trial
    The powerful placebo effect: fact or fiction?
    Neurobiological mechanisms of the placebo effect
    Harnessing the power of the placebo effect and renaming it” remembered wellness”.
    Classical conditioning and the placebo effect
    Placebo effect in double-blind clinical trials: a review of interactions with medications
    A comprehensive review of the placebo effect: recent advances and current thought
    A conditioned response model of the placebo effect
    A contribution to a history of the placebo effect

    For an effect which is not widely recognised it is remarkably well documented and studied!

    None of this addresses the problem that it is not in any way evidence of dualism.

  6. If either the placebo or the nocebo effect were anywhere near widely recognized, as opposed to grudgingly accepted when the signal becomes overwhelming, medical and health care practices would be very different from what they are.

    It’s hard to imagine anything that’s more “widely recognized” in medicine. Who doubts it?
    Any medical study that wants to be taken seriously has to compare results to the placebo effect, which is one of the reasons that blind/double-blind studies are standard practice.

  7. News

    And just in case 2 million references to placebo research are too research oriented I took a look at NHS Choices the national health web site for advice to the public. A search on “placebo” gives 27 hits.

    They included:

    Survey finds 97% of GPs prescribe placebos

    http://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/03.....cebos.aspx

    I hope this is sufficient to convince you (if your experience of medicine is that practitioners are not aware of placebo and nocebo effects then I can only think you have been unlucky). If this is not sufficient then perhaps you could indicate what would count as evidence and also give some evidence to support your position.

  8. As to man having a transcendent component to his being, (i.e. a mind and soul), there are many lines of evidence in support of that position. Going all the way down to the basis of reality itself, from quantum mechanics we have Leggett’s inequality,,

    “I’m going to talk about the Bell inequality, and more importantly a new inequality that you might not have heard of called the Leggett inequality, that was recently measured. It was actually formulated almost 30 years ago by Professor Leggett, who is a Nobel Prize winner, but it wasn’t tested until about a year and a half ago (in 2007), when an article appeared in Nature, that the measurement was made by this prominent quantum group in Vienna led by Anton Zeilinger, which they measured the Leggett inequality, which actually goes a step deeper than the Bell inequality and rules out any possible interpretation other than consciousness creates reality when the measurement is made.” – Bernard Haisch, Ph.D., Calphysics Institute, is an astrophysicist and author of over 130 scientific publications.

    Preceding quote taken from this following video;

    Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness – A New Measurement – Bernard Haisch, Ph.D (Shortened version of entire video with notes in description of video)
    http://vimeo.com/37517080

    The preceding experiment shows us that consciousness cannot be reduced to a material basis,,, Moreover, consciousness and free will are starting axioms of quantum mechanics:

    Can quantum theory be improved? – July 23, 2012
    Excerpt: Being correct 50% of the time when calling heads or tails on a coin toss won’t impress anyone. So when quantum theory predicts that an entangled particle will reach one of two detectors with just a 50% probability, many physicists have naturally sought better predictions. The predictive power of quantum theory is, in this case, equal to a random guess. Building on nearly a century of investigative work on this topic, a team of physicists has recently performed an experiment whose results show that, despite its imperfections, quantum theory still seems to be the optimal way to predict measurement outcomes.,
    However, in the new paper, the physicists have experimentally demonstrated that there cannot exist any alternative theory that increases the predictive probability of quantum theory by more than 0.165, with the only assumption being that measurement (*conscious observation) parameters can be chosen independently (free choice, free will, assumption) of the other parameters of the theory.,,,
    ,, the experimental results provide the tightest constraints yet on alternatives to quantum theory. The findings imply that quantum theory is close to optimal in terms of its predictive power, even when the predictions are completely random.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-07-quantum-theory.html

    In the preceding paper, it was shown in the paper that one cannot ever improve the predictive power of quantum mechanics by ever removing free will, or consciousness, as a starting assumptions in Quantum Mechanics!

    As well, we also now have evidence for ‘quantum entangled consciousness’ in the brain,,

    Quantum Entangled Consciousness (Permanence of Quantum Information)- Life After Death – Stuart Hameroff – video
    https://vimeo.com/39982578

    Moreover, in our bodies we now have evidence for massive quantum entanglement, in every DNA and protein molecule of the body,,

    Quantum Information/Entanglement In DNA – Elisabeth Rieper – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5936605/

    Coherent Intrachain energy migration at room temperature – Elisabetta Collini and Gregory Scholes – University of Toronto – Science, 323, (2009), pp. 369-73
    Excerpt: The authors conducted an experiment to observe quantum coherence dynamics in relation to energy transfer. The experiment, conducted at room temperature, examined chain conformations, such as those found in the proteins of living cells. Neighbouring molecules along the backbone of a protein chain were seen to have coherent energy transfer. Where this happens quantum decoherence (the underlying tendency to loss of coherence due to interaction with the environment) is able to be resisted, and the evolution of the system remains entangled as a single quantum state.
    http://www.scimednet.org/quant.....d-protein/

    And remember quantum entanglement demands a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause in order to explain its existence,, One proof for the non-locality, spooky action at a distance, of quantum entanglement is here,,,

    Looking Beyond Space and Time to Cope With Quantum Theory – (Oct. 28, 2012)
    Excerpt: “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,” says Nicolas Gisin, Professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142217.htm

  9. We also have many repeatable experiments that show us that mind has an effect on the physical/material world,, This following experiment is really interesting:

    Scientific Evidence That Mind Effects Matter – Random Number Generators – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4198007

    I once asked a evolutionist, after showing him the preceding experiments, “Since you ultimately believe that the ‘god of random chance’ produced everything we see around us, what in the world is my mind doing pushing your god around?”

    The following video talks of experiments that people can do in their own homes so as to prove to themselves that their mind is not their brain:

    The Mind Is Not The Brain – Scientific Evidence – Rupert Sheldrake – (Referenced Notes) – video
    http://vimeo.com/33479544

    We even have evidence for memory transference in organ transplants,,

    Memory transference in organ transplant recipients – April 2011
    Excerpt: Case 3: murder mystery involving donor is solved by an organ recipient:
    An eight year-old girl, who received the heart of a murdered ten year-old girl, began having recurring vivid nightmares about the murder. Her mother arranged a consultation with a psychiatrist who after several sessions concluded that she was witnessing actual physical incidents. They decided to call the police who used the detailed descriptions of the murder (the time, the weapon, the place, the clothes he wore, what the little girl he killed had said to him) given by the little girl to find and convict the man in question (2).
    http://www.namahjournal.com/do.....iss-1.html

    But perhaps the most direct evidence against the materialistic position that mind, and life, merely ‘emerge’ from a material basis is the recent findings that epigenetic effects on DNA can be induced by ‘states of mind’, thus completely undermining the materialistic claim that we are products, and complete victims, of our genes

    Genie In Your Genes – video
    http://www.genieinyourgenes.com/ggtrailer.html

    Anxiety May Shorten Your Cell Life – July 12, 2012
    Excerpt: These studies had the advantage of large data sets involving thousands of participants.
    If the correlations remain robust in similar studies, it would indicate that mental states and lifestyle choices can produce epigenetic effects on our genes.
    http://crev.info/2012/07/anxie.....cell-life/

    of related note:

    ABC News – The Science Behind the Healing Power of Love – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6t1p-PwGgE4

    Music and verse:

    More to This Life by Steven Curtis Chapman
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPK86RakT64

    Luke 10:27
    He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

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