The Placebo Effect: A Whole New Outlook
Psychologists have studied the placebo effect for many years; however, recent studies have given them new and interesting information regarding the effects and just how powerful the human mind can be. One study in particular is stating that when the mind knows that it is taking a drug for a particular reason, it reacts as the actual drug would react. This means that a patient given a sugar pill can have the exact same physical effects as a patient given the strong drug morphine. The psychologists have even gone onto say that the mind will still react the same way when they know the pill they are given is a sham. This brings up many other questions within the psychology field, such as how effective medications such as antidepressants really are.
During MRI and PET scans that are used to study the brain, the changes in the brain when given a placebo pill are exactly the same as the changes given with the real medication. This is also leading psychologists and researchers to believe that the mind may be powerful enough to heal the body if the mind is tricked into releasing certain chemicals that are needed for healing throughout the body. However, for this to be effective the patient must have positive beliefs and high hopes about the medication they are given. A recent study group that was told the new antidepressant medication would increase happiness by 90 percent within only days of taking it had a 59 percent improvement within the placebo group.
The placebo effect is counter-intuitive because we often forget how connected the mind and body are. For example, a group of people were put together and given a pill that was made to induce hallucinations. 40 percent of the group experienced paranoid thoughts and had visions that they have not experienced in the past. This group had no history of mental illness and a sugar pill was strong enough to create actual visions. Not only does this reinforce how powerful the human mind can be, but it also looks at the fact that hallucinations may be common and experienced by 'normal' people who are able to access that area of their brain on a regular basis.
Knowing that we only use a small portion of our brains and seeing through all these recent studies just how powerful the human mind can be, psychologists and scientists are wondering how powerful the mind can really be if we were able to access the other areas of our brains that are not used. They are also looking into further studies of brain activity occurring in those areas if a placebo pill is given and the participants are told it will activate unused portions of the brain. This study will include brain images that may give everyone a whole new outlook on the human mind.
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