Research, Technology

Scientists have figured out how placebo works by regulating pain sensation

The placebo effect is very unusual and evena mysterious phenomenon, but at the same time, confirmed by science. Its essence lies in the fact that a patient, taking an imitation of a drug (placebo), which in fact does not have any medicinal properties, feels an improvement in his condition, for example, he feels that the pain that worries him is subsiding. The effect only works if the patient himself is sure that he is taking the real medicine. Sometimes patients are given a placebo for therapeutic purposes when, for whatever reason, the real drugs cannot be used. In particular, it has become widespread in narcology. It should be noted that scientists in the process of testing various drugs and treatment methods, scientists always try to exclude the influence of the placebo effect, so as not to distort the results of the work. However, until now, there has been no scientific explanation for how the placebo effect works and what mechanisms it triggers. It was clear only that self-hypnosis has a positive effect. A certain breakthrough in the study of the placebo effect was made by scientists at the University of Melbourg. In the course of the latest research, they managed to find out how the fake treatment has a real effect on the brain.

Scientists have found out how a placebo reduces the sensation of pain in the body

Self-hypnosis treatment - how it affects the body

The placebo effect was discovered by doctors for a long time - aboutthey knew him 400 years ago. All this time, scientists have been trying to find out why many patients, receiving "pacifiers" instead of drugs, began to feel better. Yes, it can be assumed that the improvement occurs on its own, and simply coincides with taking a placebo. However, scientists have repeatedly conducted the opposite experiment - they told patients that the placebo had a serious side effect. As a result, the patients actually began to feel worse when taking the pacifiers. This effect even got its name - nocebo.

Faith hurts in the effectiveness of the drug improves its condition, even if the drug does not have healing properties

To find out which parts of the brain are responsible for theseeffects, scientists at the University of Melbourne attracted 27 people to the study - 13 men and 14 women. The average age of the participants in the experiment was 23 years. A thermocouple was attached to each person's hand and heated to a painful temperature. Participants were told that they had applied one of three creams to the affected area: pain reliever, heat-increasing cream, and no effect. However, all three creams were actually just petroleum jelly.

During the experiment, scientists scanned the brainparticipants in a high-resolution MRI experiment. This made it possible to determine with high accuracy which parts of the brain at one time or another became the most active. As expected, most people experienced a placebo or nocebo effect, depending on which “cream” they were given.

Some people reported that the pain had subsided, othersthe fever was said to have increased. However, regardless of the type of effect that occurred, both in some and in the latter, the activity of the brain stem increased. Scientists reported this in The Journal of Neuroscience. The placebo effect increased activity in an area called the rostral ventromedial medulla. She is responsible for transmitting information about pain. At the same time, there was a decrease in activity in the area that provides a decrease in pain in the body. The opposite change occurred with the nocebo effect.

Certain areas of the brain stem are responsible for the suppression and activation of pain in the body.

Simply put, placebo and nocebo, or ratherthe information received activated those parts of the brain that are responsible for the sensation of pain. Thus, for the first time, scientists were able to figure out how the brain reacts to placebo and nocebo.

The prospect of chronic pain management

Scientists believe that the results obtained canto make the treatment of chronic pain more effective. Previously, researchers used electrical impulses to relieve burning neuropathic pain. Such pain usually occurs when nerves are damaged, cancer, etc. Therapy with electrical impulses of the brain stem has varying success, so it can be ineffectively continued for a long time.

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The low effectiveness of such treatment is mainlydue to the fact that earlier doctors did not know which parts of the brain stem are responsible for the modulation of pain. Stimulation of the trunk with placebo and nocebo reduced localization. This will allow the brain stem to be stimulated more accurately. It must be said that not only neuropathic pain can be treated with precise electrical stimulation of certain areas of the brain. Recently I talked about how scientists managed to save a woman from serious depression in a similar way.