Report on Psychology Group Meeting - Meeting, Friday, 17 July 2015

Presentation by John Moore: Title: ‘The Placebo Effect’.

The term ‘placebo’, comes from the Latin meaning, ‘I shall please’ and can be defined as a simulated or ineffectual treatment to improve a medical condition or individual performance that is intended to deceive the recipient. Sometimes recipients will have a subjectively perceived or even measureable improvement in their condition or performance. This phenomenon is often known as the ‘placebo effect’ and has been the subject of scientific and medical controversy for generations, even being described as the result of mere suggestion in ‘neurotic’ patients or even fringe medical quackery. It use has also been condemned as being unethical. In recent years, however, reputable researchers have become intrigued by what they see as this curious example of what some scientists describe as ‘the apparent power of the mind to sometimes influence the body’.

We then watched a video presentation which described a number of experimental research projects which aimed to explore all the many aspects of what turns out to be a surprisingly complex and challenging phenomenon. They firstly showed in a quantifiable way that the placebo effect exists then an actual medical experiment was shown that that seemed to confirm that that was the case, though the procedure raised ethical questions for some people. They then explored how the effect works and how this can be show in someone’s body. The next experiment tested whether or not the placebo effect can be shown to produce beneficial physical changes in someone at high altitude. The next experiment tested a placebo’s ability to relieve something that concerns us all, pain. Brain scans were then used to try and explain the relief that subjects felt. The last two studies looked at the placebo effect’s success in relieving symptoms in two chronic illnesses and showed that unethical deception is not always necessary.

In the discussion that followed many members seemed to be both surprised and impressed by what we had seen. Clearly that placebo effect is real, not necessarily unethical, is linked to a holistic approach in medical practice and for some people has a beneficial effect. Ultimately this work suggests that minds ability to affect our physical body and well-being is not a myth after all.

Next meeting: This will be on the 21st. August, at The Owl Hotel, Hambleton. The topic will be ‘Emotions’
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