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Value of Placebo Effect

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Sep 30, 2008

Mind-Body-Spirit News

Understanding the biological basis for the placebo effect may help medical professionals maximize people’s health, suggests Barry S. Oken, MD, a professor in the department of neurology at Oregon Health & Science University. Oken’s review of placebo-effect research appeared earlier this year in the journal Brain (2008;doi:10.1093/ brain/awn116).

The placebo effect refers to a “physiological state anticipating and contributing to the occurrence of some future health-related outcome through learning, conditioning or other related process,” according to Oken. Patient expectations have an influence on results, regardless of the sources for these expectations. A placebo can be any clinical intervention—words, gestures, pills, devices, even surgery.

Some studies show that administration of a placebo activates certain brain regions. Oken recommends improving clinical trial design to better elicit and isolate placebo-effect responses. With a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that produce these results, he proposes, healthcare providers may be better able to proactively utilize methods that achieve these beneficial effects.

Fitness Journal, Volume 5, Issue 10

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at