The Genetic Reality of the Placebo Effect
noun – a fake treatment, an inactive substance like sugar, distilled water, or saline solution – can sometimes improve a patient’s condition simply because the person has the expectation that it will be helpful1
Well done studies are designed to factor in the patient’s expectation of getting better – this is the purpose of having a control group, and is a feature of all randomized clinical trials (RCTs).
However, instead of being a distracting artifact, it now looks like some of what has been discounted as not “real” healing has a powerful genetic, biochemical basis. New research has located neurotransmitter pathways that mediate placebo effects. In addition, differences in an individual’s genetics means a placebo is more – or less – likely to affect that person.
The importance was underlined by a recent article in the journal Trends in Molecular Medicine that looked at how genetic variations can modify the placebo effect and raised “the possibility of using genetic screening to identify placebo responders and thereby increase RCT efficacy and improve therapeutic care2.”
Their name for the genetic basis of placebos: the placebome. And they suggest incorporating placebo interaction genetic screening into RCT design.
Dr. Weiniger’s Conjecture: “Scientific” healing has intentionally disconnected expectations from the healing process, and I believe this is wrong on multiple levels. Therapeutic encounters that intentionally engage a person in the process by educating and connecting them with their body to see improvement can have a neurophysiologic healing response ALL BY ITSELF. If a person’s response to mind-body expectation is mediated by genetics, instead of dismissing someone who responds to less-documented therapies as being “suggestive,” it makes sense to incorporate patient empowerment into therapeutic interventions.
Relevance to the StrongPosture® protocols: The results CPEPs and others see with low back pain, neck aches and other pains is a Body-Mind effect, retraining the body to move better, while connecting the mind using attentional focus. The person is encouraged by improvement, and as they learn about bio-mechanics with the PostureZone model and 5 Posture Principles, they are engaged in a virtuous cycle to keep strengthening their posture to stand taller and move well.
1 placebo. 2012. In MedicineNet.com. Retrieved Aug 2015, from www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=31481
2 Hall, K. T., Loscalzo, J., & Kaptchuk, T. J. (2015). Genetics and the placebo effect: The placebome. Trends in Molecular Medicine, 21(5), 285-94. doi:10.1016/j.molmed.2015.02.009. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25883069