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[personal profile] fireandearth
I just read a fascinating National Geographic article from December.

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/12/healing-science-belief-placebo/

Billed on the cover of the December issue as being on "the healing power of faith" it's actually mostly about harnessing the placebo effect. The exciting piece is that scientists/doctors have been able to create a "conditioned placebo response". I want one. 


Relevant quotes:
"Scientists have been able to train the immune systems of rats by pairing sweet liquids with cyclosporine A, a drug that blocks the function of immune cells to keep patients from rejecting transplanted organs. Every time the rat has a sweet drink, it also gets the drug. But after enough trials, the drug is unnecessary: The sweet drink alone is enough to shut down the rat’s immune response."

"The most interesting part was what the brain scans showed. Normal pain sensations begin at an injury and travel in a split second up through the spine to a network of brain areas that recognize the sensation as pain. A placebo response travels in the opposite direction, beginning in the brain. An expectation of healing in the prefrontal cortex sends signals to parts of the brain stem, which creates opioids and releases them down to the spinal cord. We don’t imagine we’re not in pain. We self-medicate, literally, by expecting the relief we’ve been conditioned to receive."

"When Spevak first meets patients, he doesn’t ask about their injuries or their medical histories—he has all that on file. Instead he asks them about themselves. He might learn that in childhood a person had a favorite eucalyptus tree outside his house or loved peppermint candies. Eventually, if Spevak prescribes opioid painkillers, every time the patient takes one, he also has eucalyptus oil to smell or a peppermint to eat—whatever stimulus Spevak knows will resonate. Over time, just as with Jensen’s quick-flash faces or Wager’s skin cream (or for that matter, Pavlov’s bell), patients start linking the sensory experience to the drugs. After a while, Spevak cuts down on the drug and just provides the sounds or smells. The patient’s brain can go to an internal pharmacy for the needed drugs."

I have a drug that makes migraines go away - maxalt.  Love it.  What if I could teach my brain to associate maxalt with something else, like the eucalyptus oil or peppermint mentioned below?  Could I teach my brain to shut down a migraine without drugs? I salivate just thinking about it. 

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