Scientific publications

VSH25 biological program is based on an interdisciplinary approach - a synthesis of relevant research in the fields of neurobiology, neurophysiology, neuroimmunoendocrinology, biophysics, epigenetics, gerontology. 

Research topic Research result

1. Placebo effect

Waiting for a healing is already causing beneficial changes in the brain

A group of scientists led by Harvard researcher Ted Kaptchuk conducted false acupuncture sessions in 2008 to study the placebo effect. The results showed that imitation of treatment and intimate conversation can be very effective: 62% of participants in the experiment felt better.  But, besides this, experts found that in the group, which was just queued for treatment, the symptoms of the disease also began to decrease. This shows how much waiting for a cure has a significant impact on real symptoms. According to scientists, their own will, imagination and faith affect the course of the disease and cause real changes in the brain: activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for thinking, planning and actions, increases and decreases in the anterior cingulate cortex and tonsil, which  associated with pain.


Placebo in developing countries performs better

Recent studies have found that, for example, in Germany in 59% of cases, placebo was effective in treating stomach ulcers, while in other countries, placebo only helped patients with stomach ulcers in 36%. The strength of the effect depends on the place of residence, and a vivid example is the residents of the USA, who are most prone to placebo.


Placebo and Antidepressants

In 2018, an international group of scientists conducted a large-scale meta-analysis, examining the results of 522 studies involving 116447 patients. Scientists presented their findings in the Lancet journal. They show that antidepressants are more effective than placebo. So, for example, the popular antidepressant Flucosetin was useless for recovery from a stroke. In patients taking the drug for six months, there was no improvement compared with placebo group.

Earlier in 2008, psychologist Irving Kirsch analyzed 35 clinical trials of drugs (involving 5,000 patients) that were submitted for registration to the FDA. According to the findings of the scientist, in patients with moderate or mild depression, antidepressants had an effect similar to placebo. For those who suffered from severe depression, the drugs did help, but only slightly.


Placebo increased dopamine levels by 200% in patients with Parkinson's disease

The University of British Columbia (Canada) studied the impact of the placebo effect in Parkinson's disease, a serious neurological disease which symptoms are associated with the progressive death of dopamine-producing neurons.

Participants in the experiment were told that they would be given a medication to help cope with their disease. In fact, they were injected with normal saline.

As a result, half of the patients responded positively to placebo. Moreover, positron emission tomography data showed that they had a 200% increase in dopamine levels.


A placebo works even when a person knows that it’s a placebo

One of the most famous placebo researchers, Ted Kaptchuk from Harvard Medical School (USA), conducted several clinical experiments to study the phenomenon. He gave a placebo to patients with irritable bowel syndrome and directly reported that it was a “dummy” that supposedly helps patients with this diagnosis because it triggers a “self-healing mechanism”.  Most felt an improvement.

Thus, a placebo works even when the patient is informed that he’s taking an “empty” drug.  The method is called "open placebo." It has been shown to be effective in treating other diseases, such as cancer-related fatigue syndrome, chronic lower back pain, and others.


Placebo becomes more effective than medicines

The analgesic effect of the “dummies” began to manifest itself more strongly than from the real drugs.Canadian scientists have conducted a thorough meta-analysis of clinical research in recent years and found that these drugs can no longer demonstrate their advantage over placebo. For example, in 1996, drugs fought pain more effectively by 27%, but already in 2013 this gap narrowed by 9%. Over the past ten years, 90% of new painkillers have not passed clinical trials at all - the placebo effectiveness, on the contrary, grows and becomes more and more pronounced.


Surgery’s placebo effect

Surgical intervention can bring relief to patients, even if surgery isn’t performed. In one study on the treatment of arthritis, orthopedic surgeon Bruce Mosley decided to perform five real operations and five false operations for patients with sore knees.  For pseudo-operation, patients were brought on a gurney, given anesthesia, and then made incisions, which were sutured after forty minutes. The doctor imitated almost the entire procedure: he moved accordingly, gave commands, created the sounds of washing the knee.

The results were astounding. Improvement was observed not only in patients undergoing this operation, but also in the placebo group: participants noted a decrease in lameness, pain, now they were able to move freely and even play basketball. The effects persisted after two years.


2. How thoughts affect the brain and body

People with a positive attitude live longer and suffer less pain than pessimists

Optimism helps to prolong life, has a positive effect on the mental and physical health of a person. This conclusion was made by scientists from the Mayo Clinic (Minnesota, USA) during a 30-year observation of a group of 447 people.

Based on the results of special tests, all study participants were divided into three groups: optimists (101 people), pessimists (74 people) and mixed type (272 people).

Participants regularly assessed the quality of their life according to criteria such as overall physical well-being, frequency of occurrence and intensity of physical pain, ability to cope with everyday routine duties (both on a physical and emotional level), quality of communication with other people. It turned out that “chronic” optimists had higher rates on all points than pessimists and people with unstable emotional moods.

In another Mayo Clinic study, specialists evaluated how optimism and pessimism affect life expectancy: for 30 years, scientists watched a group of over 839 people. It turned out that people with a positive emotional attitude live longer than pessimists.


Thoughts about a loved one help to overcome stress

Researchers from Arizona State University found that thinking about a loved one can help deal with stress and prevent a rise in blood pressure.

To create a stressful situation, 102 volunteers placed their feet in cold water, which led to a narrowing of blood vessels and increased pressure. Then they were asked to introduce their beloved and loved ones. The results were successful: the pressure returned to normal, and the most positive effect was among those who were completely satisfied with their relationship.


Setting goals to extend your life

The study by researchers from the University of Michigan showed that it’s possible to prolong life if the person will determine its purpose. People who have meaning in life, much longer retain a healthy physical form and psyche, which greatly contributes to their valuable years of life.

The study involved about 7,000 people, whose average age amounted to more than 68 years. In 2006, all the participants underwent testing that evaluated their psychological state. They had to indicate how much they agree with such vital statements like "I like to plan for the future" or "In general I feel confident and positive." And by 2010, 776 subjects died. The specialists saw a direct link between the meaning of life and probability of death: people without purpose, dying more often. Moreover, the researchers showed that this factor has no less impact on health than smoking, alcohol, sedentary lifestyle and other harmful factors.



Оптимизм защищает от сердечных приступов, инсультов и ранней смерти

Американские специалисты провели метаанализ 15 исследований с участием почти 230 000 людей и выявили несомненную пользу оптимизма для здоровья: он способен защитить от инфарктов, инсультов и снизить риск преждевременной смерти. 

По словам исследователей, у оптимистов риск развития сердечно-сосудистых заболеваний ниже на 35% по сравнению с пессимистами. Причем, это наблюдается в разных возрастных группах: от подростков до людей старше 90 лет. Они также добавляют: чем позитивнее настроение, тем меньше риск болезней сердца и ранней смерти.

Пока ученые выявили лишь корреляцию, но не причинно-следственную связь. Однако они указали на целый ряд косвенных свидетельств в пользу позитивного образа мышления. Так, по мнению специалистов, оптимисты лучше решают проблемы, быстрее достигают поставленных целей, тщательнее контролируют свое здоровье, следят за своим питанием, склонны вести активный образ жизни без вредных привычек. Они, как правило, имеют более здоровую иммунную систему, лучший обмен веществ и меньший уровень воспалений в организме, что дает огромные преимущества для здоровья в целом.

Предыдущие исследования уже показали, что оптимистический взгляд на жизнь повышает шансы прожить дольше.

Авторы метаанализа утверждают, что необходимо разработать новые методы поведенческой терапии, которые были бы направлены на снижение уровня пессимизма и повышение оптимизма. Также специалисты намерены определить, даст ли подобная стратегия вмешательства аналогичные преимущества для здоровья, как и «врожденный» оптимизм.


Оптимизм связан с большей продолжительностью жизни

Ученые из Бостонского университета нашли связь между мировоззрением и продолжительностью жизни. Оказалось, что оптимистичные мужчины и женщины живут на 11 и 15 процентов дольше соответственно.

Авторы опирались на данные пациентов из двух выборок. Первое исследование здоровья медицинских сестер с участием 121 тысячи женщин началось еще в 1976 году. Каждые два года им необходимо было заполнять опросники об образе жизни, поведении, болезнях. В 2004 году участницы прошли тестирование о мировоззрении, в том числе — об уровне оптимизма, и до 2014 года ученые следили за их смертностью. В результате для итогового тестирования оптимизма было отобрано 69744 женщины. Второе исследование нормативного старения началось в 1963 году, и в нем приняло участие 2280 мужчин. В 1986 году они также прошли тест на уровень оптимизма, и до 2016 года исследователи следили на их смертностью. В итоге в финальном тестировании участвовало 1429 человек.

Для выявления связи между оптимизмом и продолжительностью жизни ученые использовали модель ускоренных испытаний, после чего с помощью множественного регрессионного анализа они рассчитали отношение шансов, которое и позволило количественно описать связь двух признаков.

Расчеты показали, что оптимистичные женщины жили на 15% дольше пессимистичных. Результаты мужчин были похожи: оптимисты жили на 11% дольше пессимистов.

Авторы предполагают, что оптимистические взгляды позволяют придерживаться здорового образа жизни, быть более целеустремленными, эффективнее решать проблемы и быстрее восстанавливаться после физических и душевных травм, что и позволяет значительно увеличить продолжительность жизни.



Optimism is an effective way to prevent colds, strokes, heart attacks, cancer and early death

Scientists at Harvard University conducted a large-scale study about the influence of an optimistic attitude on the risk of various diseases and mortality. The study lasted from 2004 to 2012, more than 70 thousand nurses of middle and older age took part in it. Experts studied the impact of psychological sentiment on the likelihood of developing heart disease, cancer, strokes, respiratory infections, lung diseases. During the eight years of observation, about 30 thousand women who participated in the experiment died: experts analyzed the causes of their death.

It turned out that women who had a positive attitude died 36% less often than their counterparts with the most negative psychological attitudes. Optimists were half as likely to have respiratory infections, the likelihood of developing a stroke was lower by 39%, heart and lung diseases - by 38%, and cancers were reported less often by 16%. In addition, observations showed that women with a stable positive attitude were much less likely to have diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol levels were rarely detected.

Among other positive trends that were identified during the study in optimistic people are more active immune responses to vaccines (which is an indicator of the high resource protective mechanisms). During biochemical examination, optimists recorded a lower level of inflammatory markers and an increased concentration of antioxidants in the blood serum.

According to scientists, positive trends regarding various aspects of health in optimistic people are due to many factors. Among them - a reduced tendency to depression and less commitment to bad habits, high stress resistance. Also, experts noted that people with a stable positive attitude tend to devote more time to active rest, preparing healthy food. In addition, optimists have more social contacts, communicate more easily with other people, make friends, which, as shown in a number of studies, has the most positive effect on health and life expectancy.


Feeling your age affects longevity

Subjective age - the one for how many years a person feels - is more important than real age, scientists have found.

All people age differently, and many feel older or younger than real years. Specialists from Seoul National University conducted a long-term large-scale study and concluded that biological age reflects age-related changes in the body, and psychological age reflects the mood of a person and the fullness of intellectual and emotional life. Feeling younger means a lower risk of depression, a healthier psyche, a decrease in senile dementia and symptoms of other age-related diseases.  On the contrary, the feeling of being old leads to serious disappointing consequences: study participants who felt 8-13 years older had an increased risk of death by 18-25% over the entire study period, and these people died more often than others.


Plus eleven years: optimistic cores increase their chances of living longer by 20%

Positive emotions significantly increase the chances of the prolongation of life in patients with cardiovascular diseases. This trend was identified in the study conducted at Duke University (NC, USA). The doctors were observing a group of 866 people with coronary heart disease who underwent cardiac catheterization. The average age of the subjects was 60 years. 

The tendency to optimism or pessimism was determined using a special test there the ability of people to experience joy, gratitude, euphoria, the ability to dream and carefree laugh were evaluated. It turned out that a stable positive mood by 20% increases the chances of patients to live for another 11 years. According to doctors, in the course of research has established a clear link between the ability to experience positive emotions and likely to prolong life in people with diseases of the cardiovascular system.


Positive people live longer

Scientists from Yale University have found that a positive lifestyle affects life expectancy even more than conventional preventive measures.

The experiment, which was attended by 660 volunteers aged 50 years, lasted almost 23 years.  Among them, scientists conducted a psychological test to identify the relationship of older people to aging. The health of participants was observed. As it turned out, those people who had a cheerful attitude lived 7.6 years longer than those who negatively perceived reality.


Benefits of positive thinking in repeated heart attacks

Patients who are unable to cope with depression after a heart attack have a high chance again to face it, and a positive attitude greatly increases the probability of full recovery. 

During long-term monitoring of patients with heart disease, the specialists of the medical faculty of Johns Hopkins University (MD, USA) revealed a significant correlation between depression and the risk of heart attacks. 

The scientists noted that every fifth patient who survived a heart attack appear such symptoms of depression as a lack of confidence and doubt their abilities to fulfill work and family responsibilities, guilt for habits that could lead to heart attack, etc. 

Long-term observations show that people, unable to cope with depression, have higher risk of recurrent heart attack. 

According to scientists, this is due to the much lower motivation for treatment, including reception of necessary drugs, exercise, healthy eating, etc., and a tendency to return to bad habits. In addition, long-term depression leads to neuroendocrine disorders, which increases susceptibility to risk factors for a heart attack. 

That’s why doctors believe that a positive attitude plays a key role in the recovery of the body after a heart attack and in prevention of repeated episodes. The belief that actions such as exercise, proper diet, medication, etc., have a positive impact on health, significantly increase the effectiveness of measures for recovery from illness and prevention of new attacks.


The activity of immune system depends on the level of optimism

Scientists from the University of Kentucky (USA) conducted a study establishing a link between positive emotions and strengthen the immune system. Objects of the study were 124 volunteers – all of them were first-year students of law faculties. The mindset of the students was assessed using questionnaires, and the activity of cell-mediated immunity plays an important role in the prevention of viral infections and getting rid of them is determined using special skin tests.

Volunteers were examined five times: the first "point" had at the beginning of the semester in August, and the last in February -- a time when the results of the exams for the first semester was announced and impacted a summer internship. During these 7 months, the students repeatedly changed attitude, which was associated with difficulties in learning or communication, success, implemented or unjustified expectations, etc., researchers evaluated the changes in the activity of the immune response, depending on the change of attitude of the students. The study demonstrated the existence of a relationship between attitude of students and the activity of cell-mediated immunity: the more optimistic the volunteers looked at life, the better defense mechanisms worked.



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