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Thread: The placebo effect (BBC2 Horizon programme)

  1. #1 The placebo effect (BBC2 Horizon programme) 
    Forum Freshman
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    One thing that was not raised was the question of why the brain stopped producing dopamine in the Altzheimer sufferer.
    Clearly there was no physiological reason for this, as both normal medication and placebo pills reinstated this function, so just what caused this normal production to cease in the first place?
    Any ideas?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Ph.D.
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    If we knew that we would know why Altzheimer's happens.


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  4. #3  
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    Unfortunately, as others have said, Horizon - which once used to be good - has turned into a sort of " hey science is cool ! " 'consumer' program, and now seems to be targeted towards children and those of little concentration or attention span. All the info in each program is very simple (ie not very technical) and would take only about 20 mins to get through, yet it is expanded to fill 58 minutes by repetition and filler. It isn't very scientific, (for example, no double blind testing) and we didn't learn very much about how placebo works; only that it does work. Most of us knew this anyway, and it has been known for centuries - homeopathic and Chinese and witch doctor type "medicine" probably work by placebo.

    I personally think that 'mind over matter' can occur - the brain can ignore pain when it needs to - and we are all descended from the humans who escaped when we were chased by hungry carnivores and absolutely had to run that bit faster to get away, no matter that our muscles were tired and hurt. We just need sufficient reason for this 'circuit' to kick in, which we no longer get in our everyday lives. It seems that taking placebos and being told they can improve your performance might switch this system on in the same way that a saber toothed tiger can !

    I had a bad back many years ago and was convinced that I would need an operation. However, I didn't, and building up the core muscle strength in my back has (eventually) solved the problem. The back muscles go into spasm to stop movement of the vertebrae if any pain is felt, but unfortunately, the spasm itself causes much more pain ! The lady golfer who thought she had had an operation was probably able to subconsciously switch off the spasm response which stopped 90% of her pain.

    As to why the brain should stop producing dopamine? In the case of Alzheimers, the dopamine production is presumably controlled by the brain, which for whatever reason can switch it off, (or more likely fail to switch it on sufficiently). The human body will not maintain anything that it does not use, eg muscles, bone density. Could it be that dopamine production gets switched off (or significantly reduced) if the intellectual parts of the brain are not being used or stimulated very much? There have been studies that indicate that use of the higher intelligence centers of the brain by doing cryptic crosswords etc seems to be beneficial to retention of memory and intelligence in older age.

    OB
    Last edited by One beer; February 22nd, 2014 at 04:52 AM.
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