reverse engineering the placebo effect


I've read about this one a few times before, but this blog chats about some of the studies that suggest various biological pathways involved in producing the placebo effect:
  • Researchers treated a group of people who were expected to show a placebo effect for pain tolerance, except for one important difference: people were also unknowingly administered naloxone. Unlike the first group, the placebo effect on pain tolerance vanished: people did not have a significantly increased pain tolerance.
  • These results suggest that after being “conditioned” with an opiate drug like morphine, people were capable of producing their own natural opiate-like chemicals that bind to some of the same receptors as morphine. These are called the brain’s endogenous opioids, a class that includes well-known natural painkillers like endorphins, which are released for example during exercise.

  • Researchers had known opioids were involved in pain tolerance, but these studies were amongst the first to show they can be involved in the brain’s placebo response to pain.


 But I've read about placebo effect in gastric ulcers, and even in cancer remission *. So its pretty clear there is an effect in some of these cases, I am wondering if there is any reasonable way to capture the mechanism in action.

Basically I am saying we need tcpdump, wireshark, nmap and netcat for the human body so we can find out how this stuff is working.

Right, somebody get on it! where is the rfc on the placebo effect?







Notes & References



Other bio-chemicals implicated in placebo

* anecdotal cancer story..


Scientific American Mind (February/March 2009), 20, 42-49
doi:10.1038/scientificamericanmind0209-42

A man whom his doctors referred to as "Mr. Wright" was dying from cancer of the lymph nodes. Orange-size tumors had invaded his neck, groin, chest and abdomen, and his doctors had exhausted all available treatments. Nevertheless, Mr. Wright was confident that a new anticancer drug called Krebiozen would cure him, according to a 1957 report by psychologist Bruno Klopfer of the University of California, Los Angeles, entitled "Psychological Variables in Human Cancer."
Additional images and illustrations

Mr. Wright was bedridden and fighting for each breath when he received his first injection. But three days later he was cheerfully ambling around the unit, joking with the nurses. Mr. Wright's tumors had shrunk by half, and after 10 more days of treatment he was discharged from the hospital. And yet the other patients in the hospital who had received Krebiozen showed no improvement.

Over the next two months, however, Mr. Wright became troubled by press reports questioning the efficacy of Krebiozen and suffered a relapse. His doctors decided to lie to him: an improved, doubly effective version of the drug was due to arrive the next day, they told him. Mr. Wright was ecstatic. The doctors then gave him an injection that contained not one molecule of the drug—and he improved even more than he had the last time. Soon he walked out of the hospital symptom-free. He remained healthy until two months later, when, after reading reports that exposed Krebiozen as worthless, he died within days.