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Placebo Sparks Brain Painkillers

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 1350 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... PLACEBO SPARKS BRAIN PAINKILLERS BBC News August 24,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 24, 2005
      NHNE News List
      Current Members: 1350
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      PLACEBO SPARKS BRAIN PAINKILLERS
      BBC News
      August 24, 2005

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4176078.stm

      US researchers say they have evidence of why some people get pain relief
      from sham treatment.

      They looked at the so-called placebo effect -- when a person is successfully
      treated by a dummy drug just because they believe it works.

      Using brain scans the University of Michigan Health System scientists found
      placebo treatment triggers the brains natural painkillers, called
      endorphins.

      Their work on 14 volunteers appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.

      Physical phenomenon

      Researchers have already shown that some people given a placebo experience
      reduced pain sensation and have lower activity in brain regions that process
      pain as a result.

      Dr Jon-Kar Zubieta and his team set out to see precisely what was happening
      in the brain.

      They injected a salt water solution into the jaw muscles of the volunteers
      to cause pain.

      At the same time, the volunteers had their brains scanned by a positron
      emission tomography (PET) scanner that would show up any endorphin activity.

      During one of the scans, the volunteers were told they would also receive a
      medicine that might relieve the pain. This medicine was actually a dummy
      drug.

      Throughout the experiments the volunteers were asked to score their level of
      pain and what they were experiencing.

      After they received the placebo, nine of the volunteers reported much less
      pain and were able to tolerate higher doses of the pain-inducing salt water
      injections.

      "Natural" painkillers

      Their brain scans also showed that they had more endorphin activity after
      simply being told they were about to get the "medicine".

      The most pronounced effects were seen in four parts of the brain known to be
      involved in processing and responding to pain, namely the left dorsolateral
      prefrontal cortex, the pregenual rostral right anterior cingulate, the right
      anterior insular cortex and the left nucleus accumbens.

      Furthermore, activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was associated
      with the expectation of pain relief.

      Activation of the other brain areas was associated with relief of the
      intensity of pain, how unpleasant it was and how the individuals felt
      emotionally during the pain.

      Dr Zubieta said the findings show that the placebo effect is not purely
      psychological and has, at least partly, a physical explanation.

      "The endorphin system was activated in pain-related areas of the brain, and
      that activity increased when someone was told they were receiving a medicine
      to ease their pain."

      Dr George Lewith from Southampton University, who has studied the placebo
      effect and acupuncture, said: "I'm not at all surprised by the findings.

      "They are consistent with what we know and have suspected. There is a
      physical side to the placebo response. You get a physiological change
      induced by expectancy."

      He said that research so far suggested that 80-90% of people who benefit
      from analgesic drugs would probably get relief from a placebo too.

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      Published by David Sunfellow
      NewHeavenNewEarth (NHNE)
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