Three Radio Shows On The Placebo Effect
Introduction (Via WNYC)
Could the best medicine be no medicine at all? With new research demonstrating the startling power of the placebo effect, Radio Lab examines the chemical consequences of belief and imagination…from the symbolic power of the doctor coat to the very real stash of opium in your mind.
All over the world, people say they are healed by things that turn out to be placebo. So it’s easy to think that they must have been faking in the first place if all it took was a little sugar pill to assuage their ailments. But keep your scoffing at bay. That little white pill may be inducing some very real effects. We talk to placebo experts Fabrizio Benedetti and Tor Wager who tell us about the well-stocked pharmacy in our brains, just waiting to be unlocked.
Radio show 1: Pinpointing the Placebo Effect
Then pain expert, Dr. Daniel Carr, takes us to the WWII Battle of Anzio, where a puzzled young medic sees that the same bullet can create very different experiences of pain. And Daniel Moerman tells us how the color of a pill effects how well Italians sleep.
Radio Show 2: The White Coat –
Next up: a look at the placebo effect from the doctor’s perspective. How the medical context alone can be the key into the brain’s healing resources. We’ll hear the story of Dr. Albert Mason, who found he had super-powers, used them for good, and then lost them forever. Then, we’ll witness the real, measurable power of the white coat up-close as Jad follows his dad, Dr. Naji Abumrad, into the examining room. And then we’ll visit the moment of transformation from medical student to healer:
Radio Show 3: The Faith Healers –
The very first placebo-controlled trial may have been the debunking of the charismatic Anton Mesmer (the enigmatic source responsible for the verb “to mesmerize”), an enlightenment figure with a healing technique that Ben Franklin, for one, thought was basically placebo performance. Historians Ed Cohen and Ann Harrington fill in the details.
Last, producer Gregory Warner takes us into the tent of a Christian faith-healing, where preacher Steve Buza treats all sorts of ailments, including scoliosis and carpal tunnel, and the healed reflect on the relationship between pain and doubt.