The placebo works efficiently even when the patient knows he's taking the dummy pill

It is widely known that people may feel better after taking meds without any active substances, just because they believe in its effectiveness. It's called a placebo effect. A team of researchers from the University of Michigan and Dartmouth College (USA) has shown that placebo helps reduce the markers of "bad" stress in patients, even if they know they are taking the dummy pill. This treatment is called an open placebo. An article about it has been published in Nature Communications.

This study has demonstrated that the belief that an open placebo cures illness, including stress disorder, actually results in changes in brain activity. 

"Imagine if someone took a sugar pill without side effects twice a day after watching a short video about placebo strength and actually experienced a decrease in stress? Our results show it's possible," says study lead author Darwin Guevarra of the University of Michigan.

To test how effective an open placebo can be, scientists conducted an experiment. In the first stage, the participants were shown pictures of negative content, which deliberately upset them - caused emotional distress (a negative form of stress). Then they were given a text about the benefits of the placebo and then offered to breathe in a nasal spray with a normal salt solution. The researchers informed the volunteers that the spray is a placebo that does not contain active substances, but which can reduce their negative feelings if they think so.

As a result, the participants themselves reported that the open placebo helped them. It is important to note that this was also confirmed by the electroencephalogram (EEG) of the subjects: the electrical activity of their brains changed in just a few seconds - the markers of emotional distress decreased.

Thus, the authors conclude that an open placebo can have real psychobiological effects - this is the strength of the human mind. They advise specialists not to neglect this practice and help their patients to believe that the placebo really contributes to recovery.

Aug. 7, 2020, 11:13 a.m.

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