I am so fascinated by the power of our brain and I read everything I stumble upon on this subject.
The other evening I saw a Scientific TV-program on Swedish television called ”Vetenskapens värld” – ”The World Of Science” in English.
That episode was about how we can affect how our brain perceives different things depending on our belief and expectations.
What is it that makes that sugar pill(placebo), rituals and treatments that shouldn’t work to still work?
Belief and expectations of antidepressants
A placebo researcher by the name Guiliana Mazzoni told a story about a young man who suffered from years of depression. He decided to take part in a clinical trial for antidepressants.
Clinical trials are double blind so neither the experimenter nor the participants know whether the person is taking the active drug or the placebo.
The antidepressants was working well for the young man and he became less depressed. Then he had a breakdown when his girlfriend broke up with him and he became severely depressed after that, and he decided to end his life by taking a large number of pills.
He took an overdose of those pills he was taking in this clinical trial. Then he had a very severe hypotension and he ended up in a very serious condition and was almost dying.
The doctor then decided to investigate this case because they couldn’t understand what was wrong with this person. He decided to ask the person in charge for the clinical trial and check in which group this young man was. If he was in the drug group or if he was in the placebo group. Turned out that he only had sugar/placebo pills.
How can you almost die of taking an overdose of sugar pills?
The young man’s belief and expectations of that the pills was heavy chemicals put powerful processes in motion.
Belief and expectations is important when it comes to placebo.
The first time that the placebo effect was an established fact was in 1944, in the middle of a burning war.
By the foot of the mountain Monte Casino in Italy lies one of the Allied field hospitals.
Wounded soldiers is placed in long rows in the simple tents. New wounded soldiers are pouring in because the Germans initiated an attack. One of the soldier writhes in pain and asks for his only solace, the morphine. But when the nurse is going to fill Morphine in the syringe, she discovers that the Morphine is out of stock.
In pure desperation she takes saline instead. The bleeding and screaming soldier gets his injection and calms down. The pain subsides.
How can we explain that the soldier who got a shot of saline felt the pain go away? The soldier and his brain expected to get Morphine and that made the opioid-system to be activated.
I think that belief and expectation are important factors when it comes to the outcome of a treatment or intake of drugs and even taking dietary supplements.
I like things that can be measured and I love that I can measure the effect my dietary supplements have on my body. Maybe you have bought a supplement on recommendations from commercials in a newspaper or a TV-commercial and you believe in what the commercial says so much that you feel a bit more energized if that was what they promised.
I have scanned so many people eating different brand of dietary supplement that don’t get a high caroteniod-score. The question is then: Are the supplements they take really working for them or is it just the placebo-effect?
One thing is for sure and that is that people’s belief and expectations have a strong effect of the physiological functioning of our body.