26 10, 2015

Cross Your Fingers, Knock on Wood: Do Superstitions Work?

When flying Jennifer Aniston always boards an airplane with her right foot first. Michael Jordan wore his college shorts underneath his NBA uniform for his entire career. Jordan ended up winning six championships and the 46-year-old Aniston has flown countless times without incident. Of course you don’t have to be famous to believe in superstitions. Many of us have uttered the phrase “knock on wood” or avoided stepping under ladders in the hopes of warding off bad luck. Superstitions are largely innocuous and allow for at least the illusion of control in situations where we feel like we have none. [...]

11 09, 2015

Your Mind as Medicine: Healing with Placebo

The Placebo Effect is a fascinating field of science because it challenges established notions of how we heal.  In the traditional model you would go to a doctor and he or she would present you with a diagnosis and some treatment options.  Placebos work differently in that they heal from within, not without and this presents a choice: you can either heal from a drug or from a placebo. In placebo studies, patients are given a medicine and told it will either cure them or make the symptoms more manageable.  Of course, they're usually given a sugar pill or a [...]

29 07, 2015

Can the Mind Heal Parkinson’s?

Modern medicine has changed the course of human history.  Advances in disease prevention and treatment have allowed us to live longer, healthier lives.  Our expanded knowledge of the human body has provided order to what seemed like chaos.  We currently have more control of our destiny than any other time in history. Yet, for all the advances in science and medicine many answers remain. The strength of current Western methodology is its reliance on evidence gathered through study and/or experimentation.  This strength can also be seen as a weakness because anything viewed as not “mainstream” is either ignored or ridiculed [...]

15 06, 2015

Changing Bad to Good: How Expectations Influence Behavior

As seen on the Huffington Post   So what makes a restaurant nice? Is it an expensive menu with exotic foods prepared by one of the best chefs in the world? How about a well-dressed wait staff, one that's prompt and pulls out your chair before you sit down? Maybe it's something simple like having to call to make a reservation? The "right" answer varies and largely depends on individual tastes. Whatever your definition of nice happens to be, once you make plans to eat out you probably will develop some expectations about the experience. Those expectations are based on [...]

18 02, 2015

Do You Get What You Expect?

What comes to mind when you think of the dentist’s office? Do you picture a neutral colored waiting room with months old magazines sitting on a table? Can you hear the drill making contact with a tooth? Do you see the needle?   Whatever you imagine you’re probably not looking forward to your next visit. Why? There may be a multitude of reasons but one of the biggest drivers is most likely pain – either real or imagined. A study into the relationship between pain and the placebo effect used the dentist’s office as a testing ground. The findings provide further [...]

11 12, 2014

There Was Nothing magical about the Band-Aid. Or Was There?

I’m sure all of us cut ourselves at some point during our childhood and the first thing we did was to rush directly to our mothers for help. She may have addressed this seemingly devastating trauma at the time with all of her attention, a small detailed examination followed by soap and water, some calm reassuring words, a warm embrace, and then a Band-Aid. At that moment, the pain very likely went away…and you ‘felt’ better. What you experienced was likely your first conscious experience of the placebo response. Here is why. The moment you correlated a change in your [...]

21 11, 2014

The Nocebo Response

A few years ago a woman we’ll call Mrs. S went to the hospital for some routine tests. Mrs. S. had a heart valve condition called tricuspid stenosis. She also suffered from a milder form of congestive heart failure. Neither condition was considered life threatening. The treating physician, Dr. Bernard Lown, examined Mrs. S. and found nothing out of the ordinary. Later, another doctor accompanied by a host of residents doing routine medical rounds with final year students and interns, examined Mrs. S. At the end of the visit this same doctor announced in front of everyone – including Mrs. [...]

29 10, 2014

Creating Lasting Change

How can the preacher in the Deep South, in a moment of religious ecstasy, drink strychnine and have no biological effects? How can certain Indonesian children chew on glass and not bleed? Why do firewalkers not burn their feet on the hot coals when temperatures soar above 1000 degrees? How is it possible for an ordinary, middle aged mother to lift a 2000 pound car that has crashed and pull out her children who are pinned underneath? In all of the above cases, these people made a decision with clear purpose and firm intention. Their decision carried with it an [...]

7 10, 2014

You are the Placebo: Psychosomatic Blindness

  Memories are a kind of record. They provide us with all kinds of information about a past experience. A positive experience can produce feelings of happiness or contentment while a negative one can cause anger or despair. This information feeds your future response. Think of something that made you happy. Perhaps you have a vivid memory of a family vacation. The sights, sounds and smells are long gone but just thinking about them produced a new reality in your mind and body. Maybe you smiled or laughed as you thought about that trip. As a result, you’ll likely want [...]