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Find video protocols related to scientific articles indexed in Pubmed.
Expectancy and Conditioning in Placebo Analgesia: Separate or Connected Processes?
Psychol Conscious (Am Psychol Assoc)
PUBLISHED: 08-06-2014
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Expectancy and conditioning are often tested as opposing explanations of placebo analgesia, most commonly by pitting the effects of a conditioning procedure against those of a verbally-induced expectation for pain reduction. However, conditioning procedures can also alter expectations, such that the effect of conditioning on pain might be mediated by expectancy. We assessed the effect of conditioning on expected pain and placebo-induced pain reduction. Participants were told that the treatment (real or sham acupuncture) would affect one side of the arm but not the other. Because a real acupuncture effect would not be specific to a randomly selected side of the arm, any difference in pain between the "treated" and the "untreated" side would be a placebo effect. There were no significant main effects or interactions associated with type of acupuncture (real versus sham). In both groups, conditioning decreased expected pain for "treated" location and also increased the placebo effect (i.e., the difference in pain report between "treated" and "untreated" locations). In addition, mediation analysis lent support to the hypothesis that the effects of conditioning on placebo analgesia may be mediated by expectancy, although the size of this indirect effect requires further study.
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Polymorphisms in catechol-O-methyltransferase modify treatment effects of aspirin on risk of cardiovascular disease.
Arterioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol.
PUBLISHED: 07-17-2014
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Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), a key enzyme in catecholamine metabolism, is implicated in cardiovascular, sympathetic, and endocrine pathways. This study aimed to confirm preliminary association of COMT genetic variation with incident cardiovascular disease (CVD). It further aimed to evaluate whether aspirin, a commonly used CVD prevention agent, modified the potential association of COMT with incident CVD.
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The placebo effect in asthma.
Curr Allergy Asthma Rep
PUBLISHED: 06-22-2014
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The placebo effect is a complex phenomenon occurring across a variety of clinical conditions. While much placebo research has been conducted in diseases defined by self-report such as depression, chronic pain, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), asthma has been proposed as a useful model because of its easily measured objective outcomes. Studies examining the placebo response in asthma have not only contributed to an understanding of the mechanisms behind the placebo response but also shed an interesting light on the current treatment and diagnosis of asthma. This paper will review current literature on placebos in general and specifically on the placebo response in asthma. It focuses on what we know about the mechanisms behind the placebo effect, whether there is a specific portion of the population who responds to placebos, which patient outcomes are influenced by the placebo effect, and whether the effect can be augmented.
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Functional network architecture predicts psychologically mediated analgesia related to treatment in chronic knee pain patients.
J. Neurosci.
PUBLISHED: 03-14-2014
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Placebo analgesia is an indicator of how efficiently the brain translates psychological signals conveyed by a treatment procedure into pain relief. It has been demonstrated that functional connectivity between distributed brain regions predicts placebo analgesia in chronic back pain patients. Greater network efficiency in baseline brain networks may allow better information transfer and facilitate adaptive physiological responses to psychological aspects of treatment. Here, we theorized that topological network alignments in resting state scans predict psychologically conditioned analgesic responses to acupuncture treatment in chronic knee osteoarthritis pain patients (n = 45). Analgesia was induced by building positive expectations toward acupuncture treatment with verbal suggestion and heat pain conditioning on a test site of the arm. This procedure induced significantly more analgesia after sham or real acupuncture on the test site than in a control site. The psychologically conditioned analgesia was invariant to sham versus real treatment. Efficiency of information transfer within local networks calculated with graph-theoretic measures (local efficiency and clustering coefficients) significantly predicted conditioned analgesia. Clustering coefficients in regions associated with memory, motivation, and pain modulation were closely involved in predicting analgesia. Moreover, women showed higher clustering coefficients and marginally greater pain reduction than men. Overall, analgesic response to placebo cues can be predicted from a priori resting state data by observing local network topology. Such low-cost synchronizations may represent preparatory resources that facilitate subsequent performance of brain circuits in responding to adaptive environmental cues. This suggests a potential utility of network measures in predicting placebo response for clinical use.
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Placebo analgesia and reward processing: integrating genetics, personality, and intrinsic brain activity.
Hum Brain Mapp
PUBLISHED: 02-10-2014
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Our expectations about an event can strongly shape our subjective evaluation and actual experience of events. This ability, applied to the modulation of pain, has the potential to affect therapeutic analgesia substantially and constitutes a foundation for non-pharmacological pain relief. A typical example of such modulation is the placebo effect. Studies indicate that placebo may be regarded as a reward, and brain activity in the reward system is involved in this modulation process. In the present study, we combined resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) measures, genotype at a functional COMT polymorphism (Val158Met), and personality measures in a model to predict the magnitude of placebo conditioning effect indicated by subjective pain rating reduction to calibrated noxious stimuli. We found that the regional homogeneity (ReHo), an index of local neural coherence, in the ventral striatum, was significantly associated with conditioning effects on pain rating changes. We also found that the number of Met alleles at the COMT polymorphism was linearly correlated to the suppression of pain. In a fitted regression model, we found the ReHo in the ventral striatum, COMT genotype, and Openness scores accounted for 59% of the variance in the change in pain ratings. The model was further tested using a separate data set from the same study. Our findings demonstrate the potential of combining resting-state connectivity, genetic information, and personality to predict placebo effect.
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Design of a randomised acupuncture trial on functional neck/shoulder stiffness with two placebo controls.
BMC Complement Altern Med
PUBLISHED: 01-26-2014
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Functional neck/shoulder stiffness is one of the most well-known indications for acupuncture treatment in Japan. There is little evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for functional neck/shoulder stiffness. Research using two different placebos may allow an efficient method to tease apart the components of real acupuncture from various kinds of 'non-specific' effects such as ritual with touch or ritual alone. Herein, we describe a protocol of an ongoing, single-centre, randomised, placebo-controlled trial which aims to assess whether, in functional neck/shoulder stiffness, acupuncture treatment with skin piercing has a specific effect over two types of placebo: skin-touching plus ritual or ritual alone.
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Altered placebo and drug labeling changes the outcome of episodic migraine attacks.
Sci Transl Med
PUBLISHED: 01-10-2014
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Information provided to patients is thought to influence placebo and drug effects. In a prospective, within-subjects, repeated-measures study of 66 subjects with episodic migraine, we investigated how variations in medication labeling modified placebo and drug effects. An initial attack with no treatment served as a control. In six subsequent migraine attacks, each participant received either placebo or Maxalt (10-mg rizatriptan) administered under three information conditions ranging from negative to neutral to positive (told placebo, told Maxalt or placebo, told Maxalt) (N = 459 documented attacks). Treatment order was randomized. Maxalt was superior to placebo for pain relief. When participants were given placebo labeled as (i) placebo, (ii) Maxalt or placebo, and (iii) Maxalt, the placebo effect increased progressively. Maxalt had a similar progressive boost when labeled with these three labels. The efficacies of Maxalt labeled as placebo and placebo labeled as Maxalt were similar. The efficacy of open-label placebo was superior to that of no treatment. Relative to no treatment, the placebo, under each information condition, accounted for more than 50% of the drug effect. Increasing "positive" information incrementally boosted the efficacy of both placebo and medication during migraine attacks. The benefits of placebo persisted even if placebo was honestly described. Whether treatment involves medication or placebo, the information provided to patients and the ritual of pill taking are important components of care.
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Well-loved music robustly relieves pain: a randomized, controlled trial.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2014
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Music has pain-relieving effects, but its mechanisms remain unclear. We sought to verify previously studied analgesic components and further elucidate the underpinnings of music analgesia. Using a well-characterized conditioning-enhanced placebo model, we examined whether boosting expectations would enhance or interfere with analgesia from strongly preferred music. A two-session experiment was performed with 48 healthy, pain experiment-naïve participants. In a first cohort, 36 were randomized into 3 treatment groups, including music enhanced with positive expectancy, non-musical sound enhanced with positive expectancy, and no expectancy enhancement. A separate replication cohort of 12 participants received only expectancy-enhanced music following the main experiment to verify the results of expectancy-manipulation on music. Primary outcome measures included the change in subjective pain ratings to calibrated experimental noxious heat stimuli, as well as changes in treatment expectations. Without conditioning, expectations were strongly in favor of music compared to non-musical sound. While measured expectations were enhanced by conditioning, this failed to affect either music or sound analgesia significantly. Strongly preferred music on its own was as pain relieving as conditioning-enhanced strongly preferred music, and more analgesic than enhanced sound. Our results demonstrate the pain-relieving power of personal music even over enhanced expectations.
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Phantom acupuncture: dissociating somatosensory and cognitive/affective components of acupuncture stimulation with a novel form of placebo acupuncture.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2014
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In a clinical setting, acupuncture treatment consists of multiple components including somatosensory stimulation, treatment context, and attention to needle-based procedures. In order to dissociate somatosensory versus contextual and attentional aspects of acupuncture, we devised a novel form of placebo acupuncture, a visual manipulation dubbed phantom acupuncture, which reproduces the acupuncture needling ritual without somatosensory tactile stimulation. Subjects (N?=?20) received both real (REAL) and phantom (PHNT) acupuncture. Subjects were retrospectively classified into two groups based on PHNT credibility (PHNTc, who found phantom acupuncture credible; and PHNTnc, who did not). Autonomic and psychophysical responses were monitored. We found that PHNT can be delivered in a credible manner. Acupuncture needling, a complex, ritualistic somatosensory intervention, induces sympathetic activation (phasic skin conductance [SC] response), which may be specific to the somatosensory component of acupuncture. In contrast, contextual effects, such as needling credibility, are instead associated with a shift toward relative cardiovagal activation (decreased heart rate) during needling and sympathetic inhibition (decreased SC) and parasympathetic activation (decreased pupil size) following acupuncture needling. Visual stimulation characterizing the needling ritual is an important factor for phasic autonomic responses to acupuncture and may undelie the needling orienting response. Our study suggests that phantom acupuncture can be a viable sham control for acupuncture as it completely excludes the somatosensory component of real needling while maintaining the credibility of the acupuncture treatment context in many subjects.
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Correlating Traditional Ayurvedic and Modern Medical Perspectives on Cancer: Results of a Qualitative Study.
J Altern Complement Med
PUBLISHED: 12-17-2013
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Abstract Objective: To characterize Ayurvedic perspectives on the etiopathogenesis and supportive treatments for a biomedical diagnosis of cancer. Methods: Hour-long, digitally recorded interviews were conducted with 10 experienced Ayurvedic clinicians, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using techniques of qualitative thematic analysis. Results: Four major themes were identified. The Ayurvedic description of the pathophysiology of cancer uses traditional concepts translated into a modern context. Although the biomedical treatment of cancer is considered valuable, from an Ayurvedic perspective it results in degeneration and depletion. In cases where biomedical treatment of cancer is not feasible, an Ayurvedic approach focusing on strengthening digestion, eliminating toxins, reducing tumor growth, and improving tissue metabolism is useful. An Ayurvedic approach to cancer supportive care focuses on restoring equilibrium, building strength, and rejuvenation. Conclusion: Ayurvedic medicine offers a unique perspective on the biomedical diagnosis of cancer that emphasizes restoring wholeness, uses natural remedies, includes a focus on emotional health, and emphasizes prevention strategies.
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A systematic review of the prevalence of herb usage among racial/ethnic minorities in the United States.
J Immigr Minor Health
PUBLISHED: 12-16-2013
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Clinical studies display a wide range of herb use prevalence among racial/ethnic minorities in the United States. We searched databases indexing the literature including CINAHL, EMBASE, Global Health, CAB Abstracts, and Medline. We included studies that reported herbal medicine prevalence among ethnic minorities, African American, Hispanic, or Asian adults living in the United States. Data from 108 included studies found the prevalence of herb use by African Americans was 17 % (range 1-46 %); for Hispanics, 30 % (4-100 %); and for Asians, 30 % (2-73 %). Smaller studies were associated with higher reported herb use (p = 0.03). There was a significant difference (p = 0.01) between regional and national studies with regional studies reporting higher use. While herb usage surveys in racial/ethnic minorities show great variability, indications suggest high prevalence. More research is needed to understand herb use among ethnic/racial minorities, reasons for use, and barriers to disclosure of use to clinicians.
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Double-blind acupuncture needle: a potential tool to investigate the nature of pain and pleasure.
ISRN Pain
PUBLISHED: 11-30-2013
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Most of our knowledge about similarities in the neural processing of painful and pleasant sensations in the brain derives from studying each phenomenon separately. Patients often feel pain induced by acupuncture, which is noxious stimulation having the symbolic message of the cure, as pleasant.
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Meditations impact on default mode network and hippocampus in mild cognitive impairment: A pilot study.
Neurosci. Lett.
PUBLISHED: 08-05-2013
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Those with high baseline stress levels are more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimers Disease (AD). While meditation may reduce stress and alter the hippocampus and default mode network (DMN), little is known about its impact in these populations. Our objective was to conduct a "proof of concept" trial to determine whether Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) would improve DMN connectivity and reduce hippocampal atrophy among adults with MCI. 14 adults with MCI were randomized to MBSR vs. usual care and underwent resting state fMRI at baseline and follow-up. Seed based functional connectivity was applied using posterior cingulate cortex as seed. Brain morphometry analyses were performed using FreeSurfer. The results showed that after the intervention, MBSR participants had increased functional connectivity between the posterior cingulate cortex and bilateral medial prefrontal cortex and left hippocampus compared to controls. In addition, MBSR participants had trends of less bilateral hippocampal volume atrophy than control participants. These preliminary results indicate that in adults with MCI, MBSR may have a positive impact on the regions of the brain most related to MCI and AD. Further research with larger sample sizes and longer-follow-up are needed to further investigate the results from this pilot study.
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Patients attitudes about the use of placebo treatments: telephone survey.
BMJ
PUBLISHED: 07-04-2013
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To examine the attitudes of US patients about the use of placebo treatments in medical care.
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Specifying the nonspecific components of acupuncture analgesia.
Pain
PUBLISHED: 04-09-2013
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It is well known that acupuncture has pain-relieving effects, but the contribution of specific and especially nonspecific factors to acupuncture analgesia is less clear. One hundred one patients who developed pain of ? 3 on a visual analog scale (VAS, 0 to 10) after third molar surgery were randomized to receive active acupuncture, placebo acupuncture, or no treatment for 30 min with acupuncture needles with potential for double-blinding. Patients perception of the treatment (active or placebo) and expected pain levels (VAS) were assessed before and halfway through the treatment. Looking at actual treatment allocation, there was no specific effect of active acupuncture (P=.240), but there was a large and significant nonspecific effect of placebo acupuncture (P<.001), which increased over time. Interestingly, however, looking at perceived treatment allocation, there was a significant effect of acupuncture (P<.001), indicating that patients who believed they received active acupuncture had significantly lower pain levels than those who believed they received placebo acupuncture. Expected pain levels accounted for significant and progressively larger amounts of the variance in pain ratings after both active and placebo acupuncture (up to 69.8%). This is the first study to show that under optimized blinding conditions, nonspecific factors such as patients perception of and expectations toward treatment are central to the efficacy of acupuncture analgesia and that these factors may contribute to self-reinforcing effects in acupuncture treatment. To obtain an effect of acupuncture in clinical practice, it may therefore be important to incorporate and optimize these factors.
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Are all placebo effects equal? Placebo pills, sham acupuncture, cue conditioning and their association.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2013
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Placebo treatments and healing rituals have been used to treat pain throughout history. The present within-subject crossover study examines the variability in individual responses to placebo treatment with verbal suggestion and visual cue conditioning by investigating whether responses to different types of placebo treatment, as well as conditioning responses, correlate with one another. Secondarily, this study also examines whether responses to sham acupuncture correlate with responses to genuine acupuncture. Healthy subjects were recruited to participate in two sequential experiments. Experiment one is a five-session crossover study. In each session, subjects received one of four treatments: placebo pills (described as Tylenol), sham acupuncture, genuine acupuncture, or no treatment rest control condition. Before and after each treatment, paired with a verbal suggestion of positive effect, each subjects pain threshold, pain tolerance, and pain ratings to calibrated heat pain were measured. At least 14 days after completing experiment one, all subjects were invited to participate in experiment two, during which their analgesic responses to conditioned visual cues were tested. Forty-eight healthy subjects completed experiment one, and 45 completed experiment two. The results showed significantly different effects of genuine acupuncture, placebo pill and rest control on pain threshold. There was no significant association between placebo pills, sham acupuncture and cue conditioning effects, indicating that individuals may respond to unique healing rituals in different ways. This outcome suggests that placebo response may be a complex behavioral phenomenon that has properties that comprise a state, rather than a trait characteristic. This could explain the difficulty of detecting a signature for "placebo responders." However, a significant association was found between the genuine and sham acupuncture treatments, implying that the non-specific effects of acupuncture may contribute to the analgesic effect observed in genuine acupuncture analgesia.
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Profile of minority and under-served patients using acupuncture.
Complement Ther Med
PUBLISHED: 08-31-2011
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Acupuncture use remains common in the United States, yet little is known of its utilization by minority and underserved populations. Herein we report first visit data capturing patient profiles, types of conditions presented, and self-reports of their experience and satisfaction with acupuncture accessed at a free care clinic with in a large urban safety net hospital.
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Active albuterol or placebo, sham acupuncture, or no intervention in asthma.
N. Engl. J. Med.
PUBLISHED: 07-15-2011
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In prospective experimental studies in patients with asthma, it is difficult to determine whether responses to placebo differ from the natural course of physiological changes that occur without any intervention. We compared the effects of a bronchodilator, two placebo interventions, and no intervention on outcomes in patients with asthma.
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Restoring cerebral dopamine homeostasis by electrical forepaw stimulation: an FMRI study.
Synapse
PUBLISHED: 07-05-2011
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Deviation of dopamine homeostasis is known to be associated with disorders like drug addiction and Parkinsons disease. As dopamine function is tightly regulated within the basal ganglia circuitry, cortical perturbation would lead to modulation of dopaminergic activity in the striatum. We proposed and tested if somatosensory activity such as forepaw stimulation could modulate dopaminergic function. Specifically, we tested in rats if electrical forepaw stimulation (EFS) could attenuate dopamine release in the brain if dopamine is excessive, and boost dopamine release if dopamine is deficient. We had previously demonstrated that EFS effectively attenuated excessive DA concentration in the striatum. We now show in this manuscript with fMRI that EFS boosted DA release on two DA deficient conditions: (1) with quinpirole challenge, and (2) partial Parkinsonism model (PD). Quinpirole alone decreased dopamine release and thus the cerebral blood volume (CBV) that was restored by EFS. EFS also succeeded in increasing CBV in the basal-ganglia circuitry of the PD rats, but not in the controls. Context-dependent connectivity analysis showed increased connectivity during the basal state in the PD rats, compared with the controls. This "enhanced" yet abnormal connectivity of PD rats was reduced post-EFS. Our results suggest that EFS resets the deficient DA system by partially increasing DA release, in the meanwhile lessening the need for recruiting extra functional network in the basal ganglia circuitry. This study shows not only the capacity of peripheral stimulation to perturb neurotransmitter function, but also the potential of peripheral stimulation to restore neurotransmitter homeostasis.
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Spatial anisotropy analyses of subcutaneous tissue layer: potential insights into its biomechanical characteristics.
J. Anat.
PUBLISHED: 07-04-2011
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As the intermediate layer between the muscle and skin, the subcutaneous tissue frequently experiences shear and lateral stresses whenever the body is in motion. However, quantifying such stresses in vivo is difficult. The lack of such measures is partly responsible for our poor understanding of the biomechanical behaviors of subcutaneous tissue. In this study, we employ both ultrasound imaging and a novel spatial anisotropy measure - incorporating Morans I spatial autocorrelation calculations - to investigate the structuromechanical features of subcutaneous tissues within the extremities of 16 healthy volunteers. This approach is based on the understanding that spatial anisotropy can be an effective surrogate for the summative, tensile forces experienced by biological tissue. We found that spatial anisotropy in the arm, thigh and calf was attributed to the echogenic bands spanning the width of the ultrasound images. In both univariable and multivariable analyses, the calf was significantly associated with greater anisotropy compared with the thigh and arm. Spatial anisotropy was inversely related to subcutaneous thickness, and was significantly increased with longitudinally oriented probe images compared with transversely orientated images. Maximum peaks in spatial anisotropy were frequently observed when the longitudinally oriented ultrasound probe was swept across the extremity, suggesting that longitudinal channels with greater tension exist in the subcutaneous layer. These results suggest that subcutaneous biomechanical tension is mediated by collagenous/echogenic bands, greater in the calf compared with the thigh and arm, increased in thinner individuals, and maximal along longitudinal trajectories parallel to the underlying muscle. Spatial anisotropy analysis of ultrasound images has yielded meaningful patterns and may be an effective means to understand the biomechanical strain patterns within the subcutaneous tissue of the extremities.
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Placebo studies and ritual theory: a comparative analysis of Navajo, acupuncture and biomedical healing.
Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., B, Biol. Sci.
PUBLISHED: 05-18-2011
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Using a comparative analysis of Navajo healing ceremonials, acupuncture and biomedical treatment, this essay examines placebo studies and ritual theory as mutually interpenetrating disciplines. Healing rituals create a receptive person susceptible to the influences of authoritative culturally sanctioned powers. The healer provides the sufferer with imaginative, emotional, sensory, moral and aesthetic input derived from the palpable symbols and procedures of the ritual process-in the process fusing the sufferers idiosyncratic narrative unto a universal cultural mythos. Healing rituals involve a drama of evocation, enactment, embodiment and evaluation in a charged atmosphere of hope and uncertainty. Experimental research into placebo effects demonstrates that routine biomedical pharmacological and procedural interventions contain significant ritual dimensions. This research also suggests that ritual healing not only represents changes in affect, self-awareness and self-appraisal of behavioural capacities, but involves modulations of symptoms through neurobiological mechanisms. Recent scientific investigations into placebo acupuncture suggest several ways that observations from ritual studies can be verified experimentally. Placebo effects are often described as non-specific; the analysis presented here suggests that placebo effects are the specific effects of healing rituals.
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Heavy metal and pesticide content in commonly prescribed individual raw Chinese Herbal Medicines.
Sci. Total Environ.
PUBLISHED: 04-25-2011
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Heavy metal and pesticide contamination has previously been reported in Chinese Herbal Medicines (CHMs), in some cases at potentially toxic levels. This study was conducted to determine general patterns and toxicological significance of heavy metal and pesticide contamination in a broad sample of raw CHMs. Three-hundred-thirty-four samples representing 126 species of CHMs were collected throughout China and examined for arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury. Of the total, 294 samples representing 112 species were also tested for 162 pesticides. At least 1 metal was detected in all 334 samples (100%) and 115 samples (34%) had detectable levels of all metals. Forty-two different pesticides were detected in 108 samples (36.7%), with 1 to 9 pesticides per sample. Contaminant levels were compared to toxicological reference values in the context of different exposure scenarios. According to a likely scenario of CHM consumption, only 3 samples (1%) with heavy metals and 14 samples (5%) with pesticides were found with concentrations that could contribute to elevated background levels of contaminant exposure. According to the most conservative scenario of CHM consumption, 231 samples (69%) with heavy metals and 81 samples (28%) with pesticides had contaminants that could contribute to elevated levels of exposure. Wild collected plants had higher contaminant levels than cultivated samples. Cadmium, chromium, lead, and chlorpyrifos contamination showed weak correlations with geographic location. Based on our assumptions of the likely mode of consumption of raw CHMs, the vast majority (95%) of the 334 samples in this study contained levels of heavy metals or pesticides that would be of negligible concern. However, given the number of samples with detectable contaminants and the range between the more likely and more conservative scenarios of contaminant exposure, more research and monitoring of heavy metals (especially cadmium and chromium) and pesticide residues (especially chlorpyrifos) in raw CHMs are advised.
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Effects of mindfulness meditation training on anticipatory alpha modulation in primary somatosensory cortex.
Brain Res. Bull.
PUBLISHED: 03-26-2011
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During selective attention, ?7-14 Hz alpha rhythms are modulated in early sensory cortices, suggesting a mechanistic role for these dynamics in perception. Here, we investigated whether alpha modulation can be enhanced by "mindfulness" meditation (MM), a program training practitioners in sustained attention to body and breath-related sensations. We hypothesized that participants in the MM group would exhibit enhanced alpha power modulation in a localized representation in the primary somatosensory neocortex in response to a cue, as compared to participants in the control group. Healthy subjects were randomized to 8-weeks of MM training or a control group. Using magnetoencephalographic (MEG) recording of the SI finger representation, we found meditators demonstrated enhanced alpha power modulation in response to a cue. This finding is the first to show enhanced local alpha modulation following sustained attentional training, and implicates this form of enhanced dynamic neural regulation in the behavioral effects of meditative practice.
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Placebo acupuncture as a form of ritual touch healing: a neurophenomenological model.
Conscious Cogn
PUBLISHED: 03-11-2011
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Evidence that placebo acupuncture is an effective treatment for chronic pain presents a puzzle: how do placebo needles appearing to patients to penetrate the body, but instead sitting on the skins surface in the manner of a tactile stimulus, evoke a healing response? Previous accounts of ritual touch healing in which patients often described enhanced touch sensations (including warmth, tingling or flowing sensations) suggest an embodied healing mechanism. In this qualitative study, we asked a subset of patients in a singleblind randomized trial in irritable bowel syndrome to describe their treatment experiences while undergoing placebo treament. Analysis focused on patients unprompted descriptions of any enhanced touch sensations (e.g., warmth, tingling) and any significance patients assigned to the sensations. We found in 5/6 cases, patients associated sensations including "warmth" and "tingling" with treatment efficacy. The conclusion offers a "neurophenomenological" account of the placebo effect by considering dynamic effects of attentional filtering on early sensory cortices, possibly underlying the phenomenology of placebo acupuncture.
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Placebo effect studies are susceptible to response bias and to other types of biases.
J Clin Epidemiol
PUBLISHED: 01-14-2011
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Investigations of the effect of placebo are often challenging to conduct and interpret. The history of placebo shows that assessment of its clinical significance has a real potential to be biased. We analyze and discuss typical types of bias in studies on placebo.
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Developing a library of authenticated Traditional Chinese Medicinal (TCM) plants for systematic biological evaluation--rationale, methods and preliminary results from a Sino-American collaboration.
Fitoterapia
PUBLISHED: 11-09-2010
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While the popularity of and expenditures for herbal therapies (aka "ethnomedicines") have increased globally in recent years, their efficacy, safety, mechanisms of action, potential as novel therapeutic agents, cost-effectiveness, or lack thereof, remain poorly defined and controversial. Moreover, published clinical trials evaluating the efficacy of herbal therapies have rightfully been criticized, post hoc, for their lack of quality assurance and reproducibility of study materials, as well as a lack of demonstration of plausible mechanisms and dosing effects. In short, clinical botanical investigations have suffered from the lack of a cohesive research strategy which draws on the expertise of all relevant specialties. With this as background, US and Chinese co-investigators with expertise in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), botany, chemistry and drug discovery, have jointly established a prototype library consisting of 202 authenticated medicinal plant and fungal species that collectively represent the therapeutic content of the majority of all commonly prescribed TCM herbal prescriptions. Currently housed at Harvard University, the library consists of duplicate or triplicate kilogram quantities of each authenticated and processed species, as well as "detanninized" extracts and sub-fractions of each mother extract. Each species has been collected at 2-3 sites, each separated geographically by hundreds of miles, with precise GPS documentation, and authenticated visually and chemically prior to testing for heavy metals and/or pesticides contamination. An explicit decision process has been developed whereby samples with the least contamination were selected to undergo ethanol extraction and HPLC sub-fractionation in preparation for high throughput screening across a broad array of biological targets including cancer biology targets. As envisioned, the subfractions in this artisan collection of authenticated medicinal plants will be tested for biological activity individually and in combinations (i.e., "complex mixtures") consistent with traditional ethnomedical practice. This manuscript summarizes the rationale, methods and preliminary "proof of principle" for the establishment of this prototype, authenticated medicinal plant library. It is hoped that these methods will foster scientific discoveries with therapeutic potential and enhance efforts to systematically evaluate commonly used herbal therapies worldwide.
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Placebos without deception: a randomized controlled trial in irritable bowel syndrome.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 08-24-2010
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Placebo treatment can significantly influence subjective symptoms. However, it is widely believed that response to placebo requires concealment or deception. We tested whether open-label placebo (non-deceptive and non-concealed administration) is superior to a no-treatment control with matched patient-provider interactions in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
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Imaging the functional connectivity of the Periaqueductal Gray during genuine and sham electroacupuncture treatment.
Mol Pain
PUBLISHED: 07-10-2010
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Electroacupuncture (EA) is currently one of the most popular acupuncture modalities. However, the continuous stimulation characteristic of EA treatment presents challenges to the use of conventional functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) approaches for the investigation of neural mechanisms mediating treatment response because of the requirement for brief and intermittent stimuli in event related or block designed task paradigms. A relatively new analysis method, functional connectivity fMRI (fcMRI), has great potential for studying continuous treatment modalities such as EA. In a previous study, we found that, compared with sham acupuncture, EA can significantly reduce Periaqueductal Gray (PAG) activity when subsequently evoked by experimental pain. Given the PAGs important role in mediating acupuncture analgesia, in this study we investigated functional connectivity with the area of the PAG we previously identified and how that connectivity was affected by genuine and sham EA.
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Double blinding with a new placebo needle: a further validation study.
Acupunct Med
PUBLISHED: 06-07-2010
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The masking properties of a new, non-penetrating, double-blind placebo acupuncture needle were demonstrated. Practitioners correctly identified some of the needles; if they were confident in this opinion, they would be unblinded.
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Use of complementary and alternative medicine and self-rated health status: results from a national survey.
J Gen Intern Med
PUBLISHED: 05-25-2010
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Despite the absence of conclusive evidence of effectiveness, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is used by 4 of 10 adults in the US; little is known about the association between CAM use and health status.
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Factors that influence practitioners interpretations of evidence from alternative medicine trials: a factorial vignette experiment embedded in a national survey.
Med Care
PUBLISHED: 04-01-2010
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Clinical trial evidence in controversial areas such as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) must be approached with an open mind.
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Unexplained infertility treated with acupuncture and herbal medicine in Korea.
J Altern Complement Med
PUBLISHED: 02-26-2010
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We aim to determine the safety and effectiveness of a standard therapeutic package of Korean medicine for the treatment of unexplained infertility in a cross-section of women who sought treatment at an integrative hospital in Seoul, Korea.
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Biological, clinical, and ethical advances of placebo effects.
Lancet
PUBLISHED: 02-23-2010
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For many years, placebos have been defined by their inert content and their use as controls in clinical trials and treatments in clinical practice. Recent research shows that placebo effects are genuine psychobiological events attributable to the overall therapeutic context, and that these effects can be robust in both laboratory and clinical settings. There is also evidence that placebo effects can exist in clinical practice, even if no placebo is given. Further promotion and integration of laboratory and clinical research will allow advances in the ethical use of placebo mechanisms that are inherent in routine clinical care, and encourage the use of treatments that stimulate placebo effects.
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Recent clinical trials of acupuncture in the West: responses from the practitioners.
Chin J Integr Med
PUBLISHED: 02-19-2010
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In the West, hundreds of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been performed testing acupuncture. They include two types: those that compare acupuncture to other therapies, usual care or no treatment (pragmatic trials), and those that have placebo controls (efficacy trials). Acupuncture has generally performed well against other therapies or no treatment, but until recently, the evidence from placebo controlled trials has been considered equivocal or contradictory. A recent series of large RCTs, mostly performed in Germany and also in the US have included both pragmatic and placebo comparisons. The evidence poises a conundrum for the profession of acupuncture. This essay first describes the two types of RCTs used to examine acupuncture and examine the results of two recent large RCTs for chronic low back pain as representative examples of recent large studies. The essay then presents the most common Euro-American acupuncture professions interpretation of these results. Western responses have included: (1) methodological weaknesses; (2) inappropriateness of placebo controls; (3) questions as to whether acupuncture placebo controls are "inert"; (4) rejection of evidence-based medicine epistemology; (5) discrepancy between acupuncture performed in RCTs with real world acupuncture; (6) enhanced placebo effects of acupuncture; and (7) needs to re-evaluate acupuncture theory. The authors do not necessarily agree with all of these responses; they are presented in an attempt to foster critical discussion. The paper also looks at recent neuroimaging experiments on acupuncture that may point to some worthwhile new avenues of investigation. Finally, the Euro-American health care policy consequences of these recent RCTs are discussed.
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Electrical impedance of acupuncture meridians: the relevance of subcutaneous collagenous bands.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 02-12-2010
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The scientific basis for acupuncture meridians is unknown. Past studies have suggested that acupuncture meridians are physiologically characterized by low electrical impedance and anatomically associated with connective tissue planes. We are interested in seeing whether acupuncture meridians are associated with lower electrical impedance and whether ultrasound-derived measures--specifically echogenic collagenous bands--can account for these impedance differences.
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Group analysis versus individual response: the inferential limits of randomized controlled trials.
Contemp Clin Trials
PUBLISHED: 02-06-2010
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The randomized controlled trial (RCT) is the gold standard for assessing the efficacy of medical treatments. Over the past 50 years, RCT methodology has proven to be quite successful in identifying effective treatments and weeding out ineffective ones, thus transforming medicine from an intuitive art into an empirical science. However, the enormous success of the RCT has inadvertently contributed to a common inferential error that is insufficiently appreciated by some clinicians and researchers. Although RCTs can effectively distinguish between placebo and active treatment effects at the level of the group, contrary to intuition, this same disentanglement is much more difficult to achieve at the level of the individual. For individual patients it is surprisingly difficult to determine who is a treatment responder and who is not. Using data from a recent RCT, we illustrate the problem and detail its negative effects for research and clinical practice. Finally, we suggest strategies for minimizing these negative effects.
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The effect of Xuefu Zhuyu Decoction on in vitro endothelial progenitor cell tube formation.
Chin J Integr Med
PUBLISHED: 02-04-2010
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To observe the effect of Xuefu Zhuyu Decoction ()-containing serum (XFZYD-CS) on endothelial progenitor cell (EPC) tube formation in vitro.
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What rheumatologists in the United States think of complementary and alternative medicine: results of a national survey.
BMC Complement Altern Med
PUBLISHED: 01-28-2010
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We aimed to describe prevailing attitudes and practices of rheumatologists in the United States toward complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments. We wanted to determine whether rheumatologists perceptions of the efficacy of CAM therapies and their willingness to recommend them relate to their demographic characteristics, geographic location, or clinical practices.
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Challenges and recommendations for placebo controls in randomized trials in physical and rehabilitation medicine: a report of the international placebo symposium working group.
Am J Phys Med Rehabil
PUBLISHED: 01-22-2010
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Compared with other specialties, the field of physical and rehabilitation medicine has not received the deserved recognition from clinicians and researchers in the scientific community. One of the reasons is the lack of sound evidence to support the traditional physical and rehabilitation medicine treatments. The best way to change this disadvantage is through a well conducted clinical research, such as standard placebo- or sham-controlled randomized clinical trials. Therefore, having placebo groups in clinical trials is essential to improve the level of evidence-based practice in physical and rehabilitation medicine that ultimately translates to better clinical care. To address the challenges for the use of placebo in physical and rehabilitation medicine and randomized clinical trials and to create useful recommendations, we convened a working group during the inaugural International Symposium in Placebo (February 2009, in Sao Paulo, Brazil) in which the following topics were discussed: (1) current status of randomized clinical trials in physical and rehabilitation medicine, (2) challenges for the use of placebo in physical and rehabilitation medicine, (3) bioethics, (4) use of placebo in acupuncture trials and for the treatment of low-back pain, (5) mechanisms of placebo, and (6) insights from other specialties. The current article represents the consensus report from the working group.
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An exploratory study on the effects of an expectancy manipulation on chemotherapy-related nausea.
J Pain Symptom Manage
PUBLISHED: 01-19-2010
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Previous research has shown that the effectiveness of acupressure bands in reducing chemotherapy-related nausea is related to patients expectations of efficacy.
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Low-dose amitriptyline for treatment of persistent arm pain due to repetitive use.
Pain
PUBLISHED: 01-13-2010
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Amitriptyline is sometimes used to treat arm pain related to repetitive use, but rigorous evidence of its benefit is lacking. This randomized controlled trial investigated whether amitriptyline provided greater pain relief or improved arm function than a placebo pill in adults with arm pain associated with repetitive use that had persisted for at least 3 months. Participants (N=118) were randomly assigned to receive 25mg of amitriptyline or a placebo pill for 6 weeks. The primary outcome was intensity of pain (10-point numerical rating scale) and secondary outcomes were arm symptoms, arm function, grip strength, mood, and sleep. Assessments were done at baseline, 3 and 6 weeks of treatment, and 1 month after the treatment ended. Changes in arm pain were not statistically significant. However, the amitriptyline group improved more than the placebo group in arm function (p=0.023) and sense of well being (p=0.034). In a longitudinal analysis, the amitriptyline groups arm function score improved 0.45 points per week faster than placebo after adjusting for subject characteristics (p=0.015). At the treatments midpoint, the amitriptyline group reported more "troublesome side-effects" than the placebo group (52.5% vs. 27.1%, p=0.005), but this difference decreased by the end of the treatment (30.5% vs. 22.0%, p=0.30). The most frequent side effect was drowsiness. In conclusion, this study found that low-dose amitriptyline did not significantly decrease arm pain among these participants but did significantly improve arm function and well being. Future research is needed to explore the effects of higher doses and longer duration of treatment.
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The impact of placebo, psychopathology, and expectations on the response to acupuncture needling in patients with chronic low back pain.
J Pain
PUBLISHED: 01-13-2010
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Comorbid psychopathology is a variable not explored in the acupuncture RCTs that could explain whether subgroups of patients with chronic low back pain have differential responses to acupuncture or placebo treatments. This was a controlled, blinded, crossover trial of verum acupuncture and validated sham acupuncture in 40 CLBP patients, with a Low or High level of psychiatric comorbidity. They completed a 0 to 10 rating scale for pain at the beginning and end of each treatment session, and rated their expectations for change in pain. Verum acupuncture was performed at Large Intestine 4 on the dorsal right hand for 30 minutes by a licensed acupuncturist. Data analysis used percent improvement in pain as the primary outcome for each of the treatment sessions. Both groups (21 Low and 19 High) reported significant analgesia with verum acupuncture needling, mean 33%, P = .9 for difference between groups; and with placebo, 26%, P = .09. In both groups, expectations were only a significant predictor of verum acupuncture response, P = .002, such that those with greater expectations had greater pain relief. Psychiatric comorbidity does not significantly impact acupuncture or placebo acupuncture analgesia in CLBP. It does not affect the positive impact of expectations on reported pain relief from real acupuncture.
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The need to act a little more scientific: biomedical researchers investigating complementary and alternative medicine.
Sociol Health Illn
PUBLISHED: 11-04-2009
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The advent of scientific research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has contributed to the current state of flux regarding the distinction between biomedicine and CAM. CAM research scientists play a unique role in reconfiguring this boundary by virtue of their training in biomedical sciences on the one hand and knowledge of CAM on the other. This study uses qualitative interviews to explore how CAM researchers perceive and negotiate challenges inherent in their work. Our analysis considers eight NIH-funded CAM researchers: (1) personal engagement with CAM, (2) social reactions towards perceived suspiciousness of research colleagues and (3) strategic methodological efforts to counteract perceived biases encountered during the peer review process. In response to peer suspicion, interviews showed CAM researchers adjusting their self-presentation style, highlighting their proximity to science, and carefully self-censoring or reframing their unconventional beliefs. Because of what was experienced as peer reviewer bias, interviews showed CAM researchers making conciliatory efforts to adopt heightened methodological stringency. As CAM researchers navigate a broadening of biomedicines boundaries, while still needing to maintain the identity and research methods of a biomedical scientist, this article explores the constant pressure on CAM researchers to appear and act a little more scientific.
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The placebo effect: illness and interpersonal healing.
Perspect. Biol. Med.
PUBLISHED: 10-27-2009
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The placebo effect has been a source of fascination, irritation, and confusion within biomedicine over the past 60 years. Although scientific investigation has accelerated in the past decade, with particular attention to neurobiological mechanisms, there has been a dearth of attention to developing a general theory of the placebo effect. In this article, we attempt to address this gap. To set the stage, we review evidence relating to the reality and clinical significance of the placebo effect. Next we investigate the scope and limits of the placebo effect by examining the hypothesis that the placebo effect operates predominantly by modifying the experience and perceptions of illness symptoms, such as pain, anxiety, and fatigue, rather than by modifying the pathophysiology of disease. Based on this background, we characterize the placebo effect as a form of interpersonal healing, as distinct from spontaneous natural healing and from technological healing dependent on physiologically active pharmaceuticals or procedures. Finally, we argue that research on the placebo effect has the potential to revitalize the art of medicine.
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Religion, clinicians, and the integration of complementary and alternative medicines.
J Altern Complement Med
PUBLISHED: 09-18-2009
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The aim of this study was to compare religious characteristics of general internists, rheumatologists, naturopaths, and acupuncturists, as well as to examine associations between physicians religious characteristics and their openness to integrating complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
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Patient and practitioner influences on the placebo effect in irritable bowel syndrome.
Psychosom Med
PUBLISHED: 08-06-2009
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To determine whether placebo responses can be explained by characteristics of the patient, the practitioner, or their interpersonal interaction.
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"Maybe I made up the whole thing": placebos and patients experiences in a randomized controlled trial.
Cult Med Psychiatry
PUBLISHED: 07-15-2009
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Patients in the placebo arms of randomized controlled trials (RCT) often experience positive changes from baseline. While multiple theories concerning such "placebo effects" exist, peculiarly, none has been informed by actual interviews of patients undergoing placebo treatment. Here, we report on a qualitative study (n = 27) embedded within a RCT (n = 262) in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Besides identical placebo acupuncture treatment in the RCT, the qualitative study patients also received an additional set of interviews at the beginning, midpoint, and end of the trial. Interviews of the 12 qualitative subjects who underwent and completed placebo treatment were transcribed. We found that patients (1) were persistently concerned with whether they were receiving placebo or genuine treatment; (2) almost never endorsed "expectation" of improvement but spoke of "hope" instead and frequently reported despair; (3) almost all reported improvement ranging from dramatic psychosocial changes to unambiguous, progressive symptom improvement to tentative impressions of benefit; and (4) often worried whether their improvement was due to normal fluctuations or placebo effects. The placebo treatment was a problematic perturbation that provided an opportunity to reconstruct the experiences of the fluctuations of their illness and how it disrupted their everyday life. Immersion in this RCT was a co-mingling of enactment, embodiment and interpretation involving ritual performance and evocative symbols, shifts in bodily sensations, symptoms, mood, daily life behaviors, and social interactions, all accompanied by self-scrutiny and re-appraisal. The placebo effect involved a spectrum of factors and any single theory of placebo--e.g. expectancy, hope, conditioning, anxiety reduction, report bias, symbolic work, narrative and embodiment--provides an inadequate model to explain its salubrious benefits.
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Alternative medicine research in clinical practice: a US national survey.
Arch. Intern. Med.
PUBLISHED: 04-15-2009
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Little is known about whether federally funded complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) research is translating into clinical practice. We sought to describe the awareness of CAM clinical trials, the ability to interpret research results, the acceptance of research evidence, and the predictors of trial awareness among US clinicians.
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Mirror, mirror on the wall: placebo effects that exist only in the eye of the beholder.
J Eval Clin Pract
PUBLISHED: 04-02-2009
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Rationale The extent to which placebo effects can be driven exclusively by subjective impressions of improvement in the absence of any independent corroboration is unclear. Methods Thirty-six self-referred patients were treated with a light therapy device intended to rejuvenate facial skin. At each of eight weekly treatments, participants facial skin was exposed for 40 seconds to pulses of multispectral LED-generated light in the range of 588 nm wavelength at 0.1 J cm(-2). Outcomes were assessed by participants as well as by the treating doctor and by blinded, expert raters. Results Patients reported robust and statistically significant improvements in seven facial features at the conclusion of the 8-week treatment regimen as well as at 1-month follow-up (for all comparisons, P 0.05). Moreover, effect sizes were close to zero and in the opposite direction from improvement (median d = -0.06 for doctor ratings; and for observer ratings, there was only a 46% success rate at identifying post-treatment as compared with pre-treatment photographs). Conclusion The robust placebo responses documented in this trial were confined to the subjective impressions of the patients. Neither the treating doctor nor blinded, expert raters could detect any improvement. Thus, patients can perceive improvement in medical interventions in the absence of any independent corroboration that improvement has occurred. This result is used a heuristic to more clearly define the components of the placebo response.
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Adequate relief in a treatment trial with IBS patients: a prospective assessment.
Am. J. Gastroenterol.
PUBLISHED: 03-17-2009
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Adequate relief (AR) of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms (IBS-AR) has been used as a primary end point in many randomized controlled trials of IBS and is considered by the Rome III committee to be an acceptable primary end point. However, controversy exists on whether baseline severity confounds the effect of the treatment outcome. The aim (1) is to compare a subjective report of IBS-AR with global assessment of improvement (IBS-GAI), change in IBS symptom severity scale (IBS-SSS), and IBS quality of life (IBS-QOL); (2) to explore whether initial IBS symptom severity influences the ability of these outcome measures to detect differences post treatment; and (3) to determine whether psychological symptoms influence the sensitivity of these measures, in a randomized controlled treatment trial.
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Functional neuroanatomical investigation of vision-related acupuncture point specificity--a multisession fMRI study.
Hum Brain Mapp
PUBLISHED: 02-28-2009
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The concept that specific acupuncture points have salubrious effects on distant target organ systems is a salient feature of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In this study, we used a multiple-session experiment to test whether electroacupuncture stimulation at two TCM vision-related acupoints, UB 60 and GB 37, located on the leg, could produce fMRI signal changes in the occipital regions of the brain, and the specificity of this effect when compared with stimulation at an adjacent non-acupoint (NAP). Six normal, acupuncture naive subjects completed the study. Each subject participated in six identical scanning sessions. Voxelwise group analysis showed that electroacupuncture stimulation at both vision-related acupoints and the NAP produced modest, comparable fMRI signal decreases in the occipital cortex, including the bilateral cuneus, calcarine fissure and surrounding areas, lingual gyrus, and lateral occipital gyrus. Further analysis of fMRI signal changes in occipital cortex showed no significant difference among the three points, UB 60, GB 37, and NAP. Our results thus do not support the view that acupuncture stimulation at vision-related acupoints induces specific fMRI blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal changes in the occipital cortex. We speculate that cross modal inhibition, produced by needling-evoked somatosensory stimulation, may account for our finding of BOLD signal decreases in the occipital cortex. Given the complexity of acupuncture systems and brain activity, additional work is required to determine whether functional neuroanatomical correlates of acupoint specificity can be validated by means of brain imaging tools.
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The impact of psychological factors on placebo responses in a randomized controlled trial comparing sham device to dummy pill.
J Eval Clin Pract
PUBLISHED: 02-26-2009
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To explore to what extent psychological factors such as expectation, depression, anxiety and belief in alternative medicine impact placebo response and differential responses to separate placebo interventions.
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Placebo response of non-pharmacological and pharmacological trials in major depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 02-03-2009
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Although meta-analyses have shown that placebo responses are large in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) trials; the placebo response of devices such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has not been systematically assessed. We proposed to assess placebo responses in two categories of MDD trials: pharmacological (antidepressant drugs) and non-pharmacological (device- rTMS) trials.
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Expectancy and treatment interactions: a dissociation between acupuncture analgesia and expectancy evoked placebo analgesia.
Neuroimage
PUBLISHED: 01-23-2009
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Recent advances in placebo research have demonstrated the minds power to alter physiology. In this study, we combined an expectancy manipulation model with both verum and sham acupuncture treatments to address: 1) how and to what extent treatment and expectancy effects - including both subjective pain intensity levels (pain sensory ratings) and objective physiological activations (fMRI) - interact; and 2) if the underlying mechanism of expectancy remains the same whether placebo treatment is given alone or in conjunction with active treatment. The results indicate that although verum acupuncture+high expectation and sham acupuncture+high expectation induced subjective reports of analgesia of equal magnitude, fMRI analysis showed that verum acupuncture produced greater fMRI signal decrease in pain related brain regions during application of calibrated heat pain stimuli on the right arm. We believe our study provides brain imaging evidence for the existence of different mechanisms underlying acupuncture analgesia and expectancy evoked placebo analgesia. Our results also suggest that the brain network involved in expectancy may vary under different treatment situations (verum and sham acupuncture treatment).
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Which patients improve: characteristics increasing sensitivity to a supportive patient-practitioner relationship.
Soc Sci Med
PUBLISHED: 01-12-2009
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Supportive social relationships, including a positive patient-practitioner relationship, have been associated with positive health outcomes. Using the data from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) undertaken in the Boston area of the United States, this study sought to identify baseline factors predictive of patients response to an experimentally applied supportive patient-practitioner relationship. To sort through the hundreds of potential attributes affecting the patient-practitioner relationship, we applied a false discovery rate method borrowed from the field of genomics and bioinformatics. To our knowledge such a method has not previously been applied to generate hypotheses from clinical trial data. In a previous RCT, our team investigated the effect of the patient-practitioner relationship on symptom improvement in patients with irritable Bowel syndrome (IBS). Data were collected on a sample of 289 individuals with IBS using a three-week, single blind, three arm, randomized controlled design. We found that a supportive patient-practitioner relationship significantly improved symptomatology and quality of life. A complex, multi-level measurement package was used to prospectively measure change and identify factors associated with improvement. Using a local false discovery rate procedure, we examined the association of 452 baseline subject variables with sensitivity to treatment. Out of 452 variables, only two baseline factors, reclusiveness, and previous trial experience increased sensitivity to the supportive patient-practitioner relationship. A third variable, additional opportunity during the study for subjects to discuss their illness through experiential interview, was associated with improved outcomes among subjects who did not receive the supportive patient-practitioner relationship. The few variables associated with differential benefit suggest that a patient-centered supportive patient-practitioner relationship may be beneficial for most patients. This may be especially important for reclusive individuals. Within the context of our study, additional study attention in the form of repeated experiential interviews compensated for a lack of positive patient-practitioner support. A supportive patient-practitioner relationship may also help overcome low provider expectations for subjects with previous trial experience. These results converge with the results of the parent trial, implicating the importance of the social world in healing.
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An fMRI study on the interaction and dissociation between expectation of pain relief and acupuncture treatment.
Neuroimage
PUBLISHED: 01-06-2009
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It is well established that expectation can significantly modulate pain perception. In this study, we combined an expectancy manipulation model and fMRI to investigate how expectation can modulate acupuncture treatment. Forty-eight subjects completed the study. The analysis on two verum acupuncture groups with different expectancy levels indicates that expectancy can significantly influence acupuncture analgesia for experimental pain. Conditioning positive expectation can amplify acupuncture analgesia as detected by subjective pain sensory rating changes and objective fMRI signal changes in response to calibrated noxious stimuli. Diminished positive expectation appeared to inhibit acupuncture analgesia. This modulation effect is spatially specific, inducing analgesia exclusively in regions of the body where expectation is focused. Thus, expectation should be used as an important covariate in future studies evaluating acupuncture efficacy. In addition, we also observed dissociation between subjective reported analgesia and objective fMRI signal changes to calibrated pain in the analysis across all four groups. We hypothesize that as a peripheral-central modulation, acupuncture needle stimulation may inhibit incoming noxious stimuli; while as a top-down modulation, expectancy (placebo) may work through the emotional circuit.
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Functional connectivity of the frontoparietal network predicts cognitive modulation of pain.
Pain
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The experience of pain can be significantly influenced by expectancy (predictive cues). This ability to modulate pain has the potential to affect therapeutic analgesia substantially and constitutes a foundation for nonpharmacological pain relief. In this study, we investigated (1) brain regions involved in visual cue modulation of pain during anticipation of pain, pain administration, and pain rating; and (2) the association between pretest resting state functional connectivity and the magnitude of cue effects on pain ratings. We found that after cue conditioning, visual cues can significantly modulate subjective pain ratings. Functional magnetic resonance imaging results suggested that brain regions pertaining to the frontoparietal network (prefrontal and parietal cortex) and a pain/emotion modulatory region (rostral anterior cingulate cortex) are involved in cue modulation during both pain anticipation and administration stage. Most interestingly, we found that pretest resting state functional connectivity between the frontoparietal network (as identified by independent component analysis) and the rostral anterior cingulate cortex/medial prefrontal cortex was positively associated with cue effects on pain rating changes. We believe that these findings will shed new light on our understanding of variable cue/expectancy effects across individuals and how the intrinsic connectivity of the brain may influence expectancy-induced modulation of pain.
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Placebos in 19th century medicine: a quantitative analysis of the BMJ.
BMJ
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To provide the first quantitative data on the use of the term "placebo" in the 19th century.
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The Brain Circuitry Mediating Antipruritic Effects of Acupuncture.
Cereb. Cortex
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Itch is an aversive sensory experience and while systemic therapies, such as acupuncture, have shown promise in alleviating itch in patients suffering from chronic itch, their antipruritic mechanisms are unknown. As several lines of evidence implicate brain-focused mechanisms, we applied functional magnetic resonance imaging and our validated temperature-modulation itch model to evaluate the underlying brain circuitry supporting allergen-induced itch reduction in atopic dermatitis patients by acupuncture, antihistamine, and respective placebo treatments. Brain response to allergen itch demonstrated phase dependency. During an increasing itch phase, activation was localized in anterior insula and striatum, regions associated with salience/interoception and motivation processing. Once itch reached peak plateau, robust activation was noted in prefrontal cognitive and premotor areas. Acupuncture reduced itch and itch-evoked activation in the insula, putamen, and premotor and prefrontal cortical areas. Neither itch sensation nor itch-evoked brain response was altered following antihistamine or placebo acupuncture. Greater itch reduction following acupuncture was associated with greater reduction in putamen response, a region implicated in motivation and habitual behavior underlying the urge to scratch, specifically implicating this region in acupunctures antipruritic effects. Understanding brain circuitry underlying itch reduction following acupuncture and related neuromodulatory therapies will significantly impact the development and applicability of novel therapies to reduce an itch.
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Catechol-O-methyltransferase val158met polymorphism predicts placebo effect in irritable bowel syndrome.
PLoS ONE
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Identifying patients who are potential placebo responders has major implications for clinical practice and trial design. Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), an important enzyme in dopamine catabolism plays a key role in processes associated with the placebo effect such as reward, pain, memory and learning. We hypothesized that the COMT functional val158met polymorphism, was a predictor of placebo effects and tested our hypothesis in a subset of 104 patients from a previously reported randomized controlled trial in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The three treatment arms from this study were: no-treatment ("waitlist"), placebo treatment alone ("limited") and, placebo treatment "augmented" with a supportive patient-health care provider interaction. The primary outcome measure was change from baseline in IBS-Symptom Severity Scale (IBS-SSS) after three weeks of treatment. In a regression model, the number of methionine alleles in COMT val158met was linearly related to placebo response as measured by changes in IBS-SSS (p?=?.035). The strongest placebo response occurred in met/met homozygotes treated in the augmented placebo arm. A smaller met/met associated effect was observed with limited placebo treatment and there was no effect in the waitlist control. These data support our hypothesis that the COMT val158met polymorphism is a potential biomarker of placebo response.
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Nonconscious activation of placebo and nocebo pain responses.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
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The dominant theories of human placebo effects rely on a notion that consciously perceptible cues, such as verbal information or distinct stimuli in classical conditioning, provide signals that activate placebo effects. However, growing evidence suggest that behavior can be triggered by stimuli presented outside of conscious awareness. Here, we performed two experiments in which the responses to thermal pain stimuli were assessed. The first experiment assessed whether a conditioning paradigm, using clearly visible cues for high and low pain, could induce placebo and nocebo responses. The second experiment, in a separate group of subjects, assessed whether conditioned placebo and nocebo responses could be triggered in response to nonconscious (masked) exposures to the same cues. A total of 40 healthy volunteers (24 female, mean age 23 y) were investigated in a laboratory setting. Participants rated each pain stimulus on a numeric response scale, ranging from 0 = no pain to 100 = worst imaginable pain. Significant placebo and nocebo effects were found in both experiment 1 (using clearly visible stimuli) and experiment 2 (using nonconscious stimuli), indicating that the mechanisms responsible for placebo and nocebo effects can operate without conscious awareness of the triggering cues. This is a unique experimental verification of the influence of nonconscious conditioned stimuli on placebo/nocebo effects and the results challenge the exclusive role of awareness and conscious cognitions in placebo responses.
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A microarray analysis of angiogenesis modulation effect of Xuefu Zhuyu Decoction on endothelial cells.
Chin J Integr Med
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To study the angiogenesis modulation mechanism of Xuefu Zhuyu Decoction () on the endothelial cell line ECV304.
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Informed consent and placebo effects: a content analysis of information leaflets to identify what clinical trial participants are told about placebos.
PLoS ONE
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Placebo groups are used in randomised clinical trials (RCTs) to control for placebo effects, which can be large. Participants in trials can misunderstand written information particularly regarding technical aspects of trial design such as randomisation; the adequacy of written information about placebos has not been explored. We aimed to identify what participants in major RCTs in the UK are told about placebos and their effects.
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Participants experiences of being debriefed to placebo allocation in a clinical trial.
Qual Health Res
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Participants in placebo-controlled clinical trials give informed consent to be randomized to verum or placebo. However, researchers rarely tell participants which treatment they actually received. We interviewed 4 participants in a trial of acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome before, during, and after they received a course of placebo treatments over 6 weeks. During the final interview, we informed participants that they had received a course of placebo treatments. We used an idiographic phenomenological approach based on the Sheffield School to describe each participants experiences of being blinded to and then debriefed to placebo allocation. The participants experiences of blinding and debriefing were embodied, related to their goals in undertaking the study, and social (e.g., embedded in trusting and valued relationships with acupuncturists). We suggest ways in which debriefing to placebo allocation can be managed sensitively to facilitate positive outcomes for participants.
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The brain circuitry underlying the temporal evolution of nausea in humans.
Cereb. Cortex
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Nausea is a universal human experience. It evolves slowly over time, and brain mechanisms underlying this evolution are not well understood. Our functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) approach evaluated brain activity contributing to and arising from increasing motion sickness. Subjects rated transitions to increasing nausea, produced by visually induced vection within the fMRI environment. We evaluated parametrically increasing brain activity 1) precipitating increasing nausea and 2) following transition to stronger nausea. All subjects demonstrated visual stimulus-associated activation (P < 0.01) in primary and extrastriate visual cortices. In subjects experiencing motion sickness, increasing phasic activity preceding nausea was found in amygdala, putamen, and dorsal pons/locus ceruleus. Increasing sustained response following increased nausea was found in a broader network including insular, anterior cingulate, orbitofrontal, somatosensory and prefrontal cortices. Moreover, sustained anterior insula activation to strong nausea was correlated with midcingulate activation (r = 0.87), suggesting a closer linkage between these specific regions within the brain circuitry subserving nausea perception. Thus, while phasic activation in fear conditioning and noradrenergic brainstem regions precipitates transition to strong nausea, sustained activation following this transition occurs in a broader interoceptive, limbic, somatosensory, and cognitive network, reflecting the multiple dimensions of this aversive commonly occurring symptom.
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Antidepressants and advertising: psychopharmaceuticals in crisis.
Yale J Biol Med
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As the efficacy and science of psychopharmaceuticals has become increasingly uncertain, marketing of these drugs to both physicians and consumers continues to a central part of a multi-billion dollar per year industry in the United States. We explore how such drug marketing portrays idealized scientific relationships between psychopharmaceuticals and depression; how multiple stakeholders, including scientists, regulatory agencies, and patient advocacy groups, negotiate neurobiological explanations of mental illness; and how the placebo effect has become a critical issue in these debates, including the possible role of drug advertising to influence the placebo effect directly. We argue that if and how antidepressants "work" is not a straightforward objective question, but rather a larger social contest involving scientific debate, the political history of the pharmaceutical industry, cultural discourses surrounding the role of drugs in society, and the interpretive flexibility of personal experience.
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To tell the truth, the whole truth, may do patients harm: the problem of the nocebo effect for informed consent.
Am J Bioeth
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The principle of informed consent obligates physicians to explain possible side effects when prescribing medications. This disclosure may itself induce adverse effects through expectancy mechanisms known as nocebo effects, contradicting the principle of nonmaleficence. Rigorous research suggests that providing patients with a detailed enumeration of every possible adverse event-especially subjective self-appraised symptoms-can actually increase side effects. Describing one version of what might happen (clinical "facts") may actually create outcomes that are different from what would have happened without this information (another version of "facts"). This essay argues that the perceived tension between balancing informed consent with nonmaleficence might be resolved by recognizing that adverse effects have no clear black or white "truth." This essay suggests a pragmatic approach for providers to minimize nocebo responses while still maintaining patient autonomy through "contextualized informed consent," which takes into account possible side effects, the patient being treated, and the particular diagnosis involved.
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Scientific tools, fake treatments, or triggers for psychological healing: how clinical trial participants conceptualise placebos.
Soc Sci Med
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Placebos are an essential tool in randomised clinical trials, where they are used to control for bias and contextual healing effects. Placebos and their effects are also studied from multiple diverse perspectives, but the perspectives of placebo recipients are seldom considered. Research shows that people form cognitive and affective representations of active treatments such as medicines, and that they use these representations to guide their behaviour; it seems reasonable to suggest that people might also think about and develop representations of placebos. We adopted a qualitative approach to examine in detail how participants in one RCT, conducted in the USA, conceptualised placebos. 12 people were interviewed 3 times each, at the start, middle, and end of a trial of placebo effects and acupuncture for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The interview data were analysed inductively and we identified four ways in which the participants conceptualised placebos: placebos are necessary for research; placebo effects are fake; placebo acupuncture is not real acupuncture; placebos have real effects mediated by psychological mechanisms. Participants conceptualisations of placebos were dynamic and situated in a broader psychological and socio-cultural context. Seeing placebo effects as legitimate seemed to be facilitated by having more holistic models of healing, viewing IBS as psychological, and seeing treatment as multifactorial. However, some participants maintained a negative view of placebo effects (e.g. as illusions) that was apparently inconsistent with their other beliefs (e.g. in mind-body healing mechanisms). This may indicate a dominance of negative discourses around placebos at a socio-cultural level. Negative views of placebos are inconsistent with evidence that placebo treatments can have positive effects on symptoms. RCT participants should be informed about potential benefits of placebo treatments to avoid misunderstandings and unease. Future work should improve methods of providing participants with full accurate information about placebos and their effects.
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