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The above mentioned headline comes from an Associated Press story reporting on a study released from the Journal of Neuroscience, August 24, 2005 issue. The research shows scientific data that placebos actually activate neurological activity to reduce pain.
A placebo is not an authentic medication, but rather sugar water that is provided to test subjects who believe they are consuming medication. In this study funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by researchers at Michigan's Molecular and Behavioral Neurosciences Institute, subjects believed that they were receiving pain medication.
This study involved 14 healthy men, ages 20 to 30, who were given a salt water injection which caused pain to their jaw. They were then injected with a placebo and was told that it was a painkiller. The subjects' brain activity, along with their responses to questions were monitored and evaluated. Even though the levels varied, all nine subject's brains released more natural painkilling endorphins once the placebos had been given.
The results with the test subjects revealed that the brain releases chemicals which relieve pain in patients who believe they are receiving treatment with real painkillers. Previously, many believed that the "placebo effect was only psychological in nature with no real physiological basis." The results of this study challenges that previous belief.
Dr. Jon-Kar Zubieta, associate professor of psychiatry and radiology at the Michigan Medical School stated, "This deals another serious blow to the idea that the placebo effect is a purely psychological, with no physical basis." He concluded, "The mind-body connection is quite clear."
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