Monday, April 26, 2010

Placebo alters brain function of people with depression

The placebo effect is a widely known medical intervention that doctors use to prevent the use of medication in patients. It wasn't until early 2002 that researchers first discovered that practicing placebos on their patients may lead to alternative results if they suffer from severe depression. '"People have known for years that if you give placebos to patients with depression or other illnesses, many of them will get better," says Leuchter, director of adult psychiatry and a professor at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital. Participants' decision to seek treatment, hopefulness for the treatment's effectiveness and positive interactions with health-service providers could all contribute to the "placebo effect," says Leuchter. And while the findings do not explain why people respond to placebo treatment, "it does change the way we think about the placebo effect," says Leuchter. "What this study shows, for the first time, is that people who get better on placebo have a change in brain function, just as surely as people who get better on medication."'

Its strange after reading this to think of how much the mind effects our well-being. Just the excitement of a drug working positively can make all the difference in treatment. Big expectations can can also help, giving way for an optimistic outlook. Mix in with a little bit of time and most people will get better. I love that this practice is used. It gives the medical world a sense of humanity, not trying to push drugs on their patients all the time and with such ease. But if side effects begin to surface surrounding the "non-altering" use of placebos, I think someone might need to take a second look to see if what we originally thought was true, is. However, it's effects have been positive thus far. Maybe in the future the use of the placebo effect may have a different purpose. For now, it stays thankfully.


Swe said...

This article came as a complete surprise to me. I have always thought of depression as "chemical depression"- a result of a chemical imbalance that people could not control. The article however, stated that "Medication responders showed brain function changes within 48 hours of starting treatment, while the placebo responders' changes began to occur after one to two week." It's amazing to think, that just a change in someone's outlook or hope that they may improve can actually help them get better. Although the results were not as quick as those acquired with medicine, this opens the questions: how much of a disorder or illness is within our control? Can depression, given enough time, be "hoped" away? Does the way people are diagnosed or prescribed medicine need to change? If people can recover on their own, when is medicine really needed? (Besides for any physical symptoms). Also, what other disorders can be "cured" this way? Could others like PTSD could be dealt with in the same way? If so, then maybe what Psychology needs is more unconventional methods to solving problems.

stephb288 said...

I found this article interesting. I definitely believe there are plenty of disorders out there that are strictly mental and real medication cannot physically help them. a placebo is basically tricking a person, but usually in a good way. This can only work for an optimistic person. I am for the most part a pessimist about a lot of things, especially medicine. I'm convinced that a lot of medicine won't make me feel better, and as a result to that it usually doesn't, unless of course it is a really strong drug. When I has in high school I went through an episode of depression and was put on anti-depressants for a little while, but I don't think they helped me at all. I stopped taking them and a little while later, I started feeling better on my own. It all depends on what the placebo is being used for and the type of person it is being given to. I think this procedure can be really helpful if given to people that believe it is real and can help. When people truly believe something is real, their brain and body will believe it, too.

KatSUESS said...

"This study examined brain function in depressed subjects receiving either active medication or placebo and sought to determine whether quantitative electroencephalography (QEEG) could detect differences in brain function between medication and placebo responders. Both QEEG power and cordance, a new measure that reflects cerebral perfusion and is sensitive to the effect of antidepressant medication, were examined. "

This is an interesting study yet again proving a possible solution to such problems without using medication.