Placebo Effect's Neural Activity Photographed for First Time
2009 10 21

By Ewen Callaway | NewScientist.com


The placebo effect is not only real; its ability to deaden pain has been pinpointed to cells in the spinal cord. That raises hopes for new ways of treating conditions such as chronic pain.

The researchers who made the discovery scanned the spinal cords of volunteers while applying painful heat to one arm. Then they rubbed a cream onto the arm and told the volunteers that it contained a painkiller – but in fact it had no active ingredient. Even so, the cream made spinal-cord neural activity linked to pain vanish.

"This type of mechanism has been envisioned for over 40 years for placebo analgesia," says Donald Price, a neuroscientist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, who was not involved in the new study. "This study provides the most direct test of this mechanism to date."

Indeed, the biggest obstacle to establishing the spinal cord's role in placebo pain relief was measuring its activity with fMRI scanning, says Falk Eippert, a neuroscientist at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, who led the study.

Squeezing a scan

FMRI scanning has long been used to image the brain, but the part of the spinal cord that Eippert's team was interested in – the dorsal horn – is minuscule in comparison, and so is harder to image. It also swims around in cerebrospinal fluid, further complicating real-time measurement.

The team's first breakthrough was to squeeze an fMRI signal out of the spinal cord. Then they quickly adapted the technique to study placebo pain relief.

This meant telling 13 volunteers a white lie. They were told that the researchers were testing how effective a painkilling cream was, with an inactive cream as a control on the trial.

In fact, neither cream contained anaesthetic. However, when Eippert's team applied the alleged painkilling cream for the first time, they turned down the intensity of painful heat stimulation to 40 per cent of each volunteer's pain threshold – 46 °C on average. When the team tested the alleged control cream, they kept the temperature set at 80 per cent of the pain threshold – an average of 47 °C.

Because of this "fixing" of the temperatures, the volunteers would think, "'OK, this really seems to work, and it will work when I take it the next time,'" Eippert explains.

Feeling the heat

Later, with an fMRI scanner on, the researchers rubbed "control" and "painkiller" creams onto two different spots on each volunteer's left forearm and applied the same level of heat to each spot, 15 times.

The fake "painkiller" cream worked: volunteers said they experienced 26 per cent less pain on the "painkiller"-treated patch of their arm, compared with the "control"-treated area.

Meanwhile, the fMRI scanner witnessed the placebo effect. When skin treated with the "control" cream was heated, an area of the dorsal horn located on the left side of volunteers' lower necks lit up, suggesting increased neural activity there in response to pain. However, this signal disappeared in the "painkiller" trials.

Eippert's team didn't discover what caused this shift. He speculates that higher brain areas involved in buying into the bogus treatment trigger the release of endogenous opioids – chemicals our brain produces that work like opiates and may temper spinal cord activity.

Now that researchers know the neural hallmark of placebo pain relief, they could use it to develop treatments, cognitive or chemical, that take better advantage of belief, Eippert says.

The word placebo comes from the Latin for "I shall please."

Article from: NewScientist.com


Bruce Lipton - Biology of Perception (1/7)

Video from: YouTube.com



Bruce Lipton - The Biology of Belief

Bruce Lipton - The Biology of Belief Continued (Subscription)

Dr. Leonard Horowitz - The Pharmaceutical Industry, Vaccines & Frequency 528

Dr. Leonard Horowitz - AIDS, HIV, Vaccines & The Properties of Water (Subscription)

James Furia - Keys, Music of the Spheres & Chakra Tuning

Gregg Braden - The Divine Matrix

Lynne McTaggart - The Intention Experiment

Paul Levy - George W Bush & our Collective Psychosis

Paul Levy - Awaken In The Dream (Subscription)

Susan Joy Rennison - Cosmic Origins of Global Warming

Susan Joy Rennison - Tuning the Diamonds (Subscription)

Marta Williams - Communication with Nature & Animals

Daniel Pinchbeck - Modern Shamanism, Psychedelics & 2012




Related Articles
Placebo Effect's Neural Activity Photographed for First Time
Placebo Effect: A Cure in the Mind
Is It Ethical To Engineer Delicious Cows That Feel No Pain?
Placebo v. Placebo
Acupuncture: Placebo Effect?
The Placebo Effect - The Triumph of Mind over Body
Placebo effect is in the spine as well as the mind
Nocebo Effect - Wiki
The Nocebo Effect: Placebo's Evil Twin
Placebo effect starts in the spine – not just the mind


Latest News from our Front Page

13 years ago this man was accused of abusing 18 girls in Rotherham - so why are police only NOW acting on the claims?
2014 09 02
Comment: As this story finally is getting more and more coverage, let’s expose these sick perverts for what they are and get to the root of the problem that enabled horrors like this to not only go unnoticed for such a long time, but also to the heart of why people in law and government denied it and decided to ...
Harvard Professor Noel Ignatiev talks about how to end the White race
2014 09 02
There was some doubt earlier this week as to the validity of the claim in Kevin MacDonald’s article The War Against Whites. We’ll we found something for your guys: Source: youtube.com Not that this is the only one, far from it, this is just a small sample of the barrage of conferences and a well educated cultural marxists that have set their goals ...
Secret underground tunnels of ancient Mesopotamian cult revealed under Ani ruins
2014 09 01
For the first time in history, the academic world is paying attention to the spectacular underground world of Ani, a 5,000-year-old Armenian city located on the Turkish-Armenian border. Hurriyet Daily News reports that scientists, academics, and researchers have just met at a symposium in Kars titled ‘Underground Secrets of Ani’ to discuss the city’s underground world mentioned in ancient ...
A Government Vision Of The Future That Isn’t That Great
2014 09 01
Here’s a report by the UK Ministry of Defense, a document that they’re not hiding - it’s not classified. In fact, they WANT you to read it: the Global Strategic Trends 2045. For your convenience, they’ve even produced a handy video about their dire predictions: They present a warning call for how things are going to be bad in the future. ...
Bad Memories Turned to Happy Ones in Mice Brains
2014 09 01
Memories are often associated with emotions, and these feelings can change through new experiences and over time. Now, using light, scientists have been able to manipulate mice brain cells and turn the animals’ fearful memories into happy ones, according to a new study. Memories are encoded in groups of neurons that are activated together or in specific patterns, but it is ...
More News »