How does the placebo effect work?


The mechanisms active in our brain the placebo effect are becoming better known although some aspects remain authentic mystery. So where comes the “power of the mind”?

When a doctor prescribes a medicine always has a curious phenomenon that allows the person to improve even though the drug has not made effect. So much so that in the pharmaceutical industry this effect has Intl. Indeed, there are those who use it to their advantage to sell miracle cures and other lies. placebo effect it is much stronger than most people think . And yet, you do not understand its mechanism of action. Let’s meet some of its properties.

What it is the placebo effect? ​​

Before going is essential to know what we mean. The placebo effect is an improvement over an upset but has been produced by a non-active substance (substance known as placebo). The placebo effect works on all kinds of ailments, mitigándolas or referring them entirely in many cases. These are not always associated exclusively with a psychological condition but is an actual physical component . The placebo effect works not only substances but may appear to apply remedies … more unusual such as prayers, magical icons or The placebo effect not only works but also with other substances .. . Remedies other things. As already mentioned, the placebo effect can cause pain or discomfort disappears (at least its perception), physiologically or chemically although this does not make sense at all.

For example, you can have a bruise reduce your inflammation (or the perception thereof) without that there has been an anti-inflammatory involved. Its effects are so potent that are always considered in the design of a drug in a significantly higher percentage than we would expect. There are also in the center of what is known as “double blind test” , which is to demonstrate whether a substance is “real” effect or is the same as that of a placebo. Although known for many years (and are considered scientifically decades) how work is so complex and poorly understood that the placebo effect is still the result of many discussions and further misunderstandings.

And, how does it work?

Now that we know what it is, let’s see what we know about the placebo effect. The little we know what divides into two main areas:. How acts on the brain and its physiological effects

The brain

In the end, the physiological effect is not only a consequence that the placebo effect it has on the brain. The vast majority of the information we have about placebos and the brain comes from the study of pain. What has been observed to date, is that pain can be manipulated to reduce placebo substances. Observing the brain with neuroimaging what we appreciate is that the placebo effect tends to partly disable centers dedicated to feel and interpret the pain: the thalamus, somatosensory cortex and insula, among others. The longer the treatment, the more these areas are arranged and the patient feels less pain

In addition, treatment with placebo, as has been proven, it is also capable of triggering a response that travels through the spinal cord, acting on a special fabric ( periaqueductal gray fabric) that produce natural substances that reduce pain. This is very important and has been shown to block this substance reduces the placebo effect so this periaqueductal gray is a major component in the effect. Other points serving the placebo effect is the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, leading to increased regulation of natural opiates in the body. On the other hand, the amygdala, which controls the state of anxiety, for example, it seems very affected by the placebo effect. These are just some small examples, because what we see is that the placebo effect affects each of the parts of the brain with an unexpected intensity.

The physiology

We know where It acts placebo and therefore what effects may be associated. The problem comes when we try to know how it works. The intimate mechanism of action still remains a mystery. At least in part. We have seen how the system is truly complex, activating cascades that stimulate different parts of the nervous system. An active substance and the next and so cause our body to regulate the sensation of pain signal. But all this waterfall where it starts? As already mentioned, the placebo substances have none active component. This is confirmed if we see that the placebo effect works in general. That is, a substance placebo works for different types of aches and pains, completely different

ZEISS Microscopy (Flickr )

It seems that the simple act of administering an active cure a set of brain circuits arranged for pain, without there being any type of substance involved. It is literally what people call “brain power.” So a huge and complicated cascade involving substances like dopamine, various natural opioids, hormones such as cholecystokinin or oxytocin is triggered. The set of all produce a picture of real improvement that can cure complex diseases. It is not a purely psychological issue . There is a real reduction in the perception of pain and anxiety. Although the trigger itself is entirely psychological. We are fooling our physiology. The problem is that not really know how.

Entediendo the placebo effect

As we have explained, seems to understand the mechanisms on acting but we still need to understand the trigger . Understanding the placebo effect is much more important than it seems. And that means money in drug development. It also involves improving the welfare of the The complicated mechanism of placebo feeds amimefuncionismo leveraging pseudoscience patients. In addition, it can be used for negative purposes, as we have explained. And there who used to convince people with miraculous measures estafándolos. For example, this occurs with shamanism and magic.

It also happens, of course, with homeopathy. O crystals, charms, medals etc … The underlying mechanisms are the same. And they are very powerful and complicated. So the “amimefuncionismo” (“For my ‘running me!”) Is so difficult to eradicate. As if this were not enough, levels to serving the placebo effect many . From somatic effects, i.e. visible (reduced temperature, less pain, scarring …) to psychological (stress, anxiety, anxiety …), the placebo effect acts in many ways. The report that a substance is a placebo can end the placebo effect or not and do not know why. This also complicates things.

To give you even a little more complication to the thing, the placebo effect also actúa on animals (or children, which is stronger), which shows that the mechanism in mammals is widespread, but do not know how it starts to act. Also placebo effects have been detected even more powerful effects assets (ie, a substance really). It has even come to check that the placebo effect can reduce mortality. As we see, the importance of the placebo effect is immense. Perhaps much more than we expected when we define first. In any case, every day we reveal a little more of this fascinating effect although there is still much to discover about it.


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How does the placebo effect work?
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Bibliography ►

phoneia.com (August 17, 2015). How does the placebo effect work?. Bogotá: E-Cultura Group. Recovered from https://phoneia.com/en/how-does-the-placebo-effect-work/