Is a placebo response all in a person's mind?

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
The placebo response is not something that is just in a person’s mind. It is a powerful response that has and continues to be studied extensively. I was first introduced to the placebo effect in medical school.  One of my colleagues gave me an aspirin for my headache. He asked me how long it took to work and I told him about 10 minutes. He told me that it actually  takes 30 to 60 minutes to work. I was surprised and impressed that my headache resolved with just the act of taking the aspirin.

Studies at the University of Michigan found a similar response to those who received a pain stimulus and then given a placebo and told it would help with pain.  The brain’s pain relief system was observed to activate using a special brain scan.  

Although the placebo effect may start in the brain it is followed by physiologic responses in the rest of the body.  

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.