Science Vs
Science Vs
May 9, 2019
Placebo: Can the Mind Cure You?
Play • 32 min

Could fake medicine actually take away your pain or treat a disease? We dig into the science of placebos to find out more about the power of the mind to heal. We speak to medical researcher Prof. Ted Kaptchuk, neuroscientist Prof. Fabrizio Benedetti and medical psychologist Prof. Manfred Schedlowski.

UPDATE 5/13/19: We changed a few things in this episode to clarify facts. An earlier version of this episode implied that the placebo surgery for knee and back pain was really effective in itself. In fact, these studies found that some placebo surgeries work as well as real surgeries. In other words, patients reported less pain after both the real surgery and the placebo surgery.

We also said that Pavlov’s studies used a bell to condition dogs. Whether Pavlov himself used a conventional bell is debated in the literature. Some say this was an early translation error from Russian to English. Later studies by his colleagues definitely used a bell.

Finally! We have added a caveat into placebo research more generally to highlight that this research is early and that we don’t have many have long-term studies into placebos, so we don’t know how long the placebo effect can last.

Check out the full transcript here:

Selected References: 

Great summary paper on placebo:

Cure: A journey into the science of mind over body

Ted’s IBS “open label” placebo study with Linda…:

Fabrizio’s high altitude headache study:

Manfred’s first immunosuppression study with the green drink:

Credits: This episode was produced by Wendy Zukerman, with help from Rose Rimler, Meryl Horn, and Michelle Dang. Our senior producer is Kaitlyn Sawrey. We’re edited by Blythe Terrell. Editing help from Caitlin Kenney. Fact checking by Michelle Harris. Mix and sound design by Peter Leonard. Music by Peter Leonard, Emma Munger and Bobby Lord. Recording assistance from Fabian Mirko May, Mary Dooe and Maggie Penman. A huge thanks to all the scientists we got in touch with for this episode, including Dr. Diletta Barbiani, Dr. Cynthia McRae, Dr. J Bruce Moseley, Professor Apkar Apkarian, Professor Jon Stoessl, and others. And special thanks to Lynda McKenzie, the Zukerman family, and Joseph Lavelle Wilson.

Ologies with Alie Ward
Ologies with Alie Ward
Alie Ward
Urban Rodentology (SEWER RATS) with Bobby Corrigan
RATS: They love pizza. They invade taquerias at midnight. They scurry. They cuddle. They outsmart. They inspire movies that inspire musicals. Proving that not just woodsy megafauna can be charismatic, rats have lives we would never suspect. Globally-lauded Urban Rodentologist Dr. Robert Corrigan, or Bobby if you like, has been studying these animals in their big-city ecosystem for decades and he is a wonder-filled joy. Learn about rats’ origin story, the difference between a rat and a mouse, where they live, their preferred “food dialects,” and how to (hopefully humanely) keep one out of your house -- or car? Might as well start to love and respect them, because we’re not-too-distantly related and one day… they may be steering the ship.    Follow Bobby at Sponsor links: A donation went to the Yash Gandhi Foundation: More links and info at Become a patron of Ologies for as little as a buck a month: has hats, shirts, pins, totes! Follow or Follow or Sound editing by Jarrett Sleeper of MindJam Media & Steven Ray Morris Theme song by Nick Thorburn Support the show: See for privacy information.
1 hr 19 min
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