The basis of the word placebo comes from, in Latin, ‘it will please’. Therefore placebo is generally conceptualized as something which is done to someone rather than giving them ‘real’ treatment, per se. The response seen in the patient has nothing to do with what is in the treatment per se but it is the simulation of therapy that drives changes in the person’s brain and body. Therefore when we study the placebo effect we are studying the effect of the psychosocial context around the person and how this context affects their mind, brain and body.
There is also more than one placebo effect. From a biological viewpoint we know that certain placebo’s are mediated by our internal opioid system, or endogenous opiates, and others by chemicals (such as dopamine) and systems (motor, cardiovascular, respiratory and endocrine systems). From the psychological viewpoint, there are many instances where the expectation of benefit increases placebo effects. But there are also instances when conditioning or learning mechanisms are at play – background experience, social observation, differences in culture, etc.
Learn more from our previous blogs on this topic by clicking the links below. Some interesting reading and watching indeed!