Posts Tagged ‘research


Can we, as adults, grow new neurons? Neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret says that we can, and she offers research and practical advice on how we can help our brains better perform neurogenesis—improving mood, increasing memory formation and preventing the decline associated with aging along the way. Want to cut to the chase? In her TED talk (which you can access here), she suggests that learning, sex, getting good sleep, calorie restriction and intermittent fasting, as well as eating more food with Omega 3s, and cardiovascular exercise such as running, all increase neurogenesis. What are some things that decrease your ability to create new neurons? Stress, lack of good sleep, alcohol, saturated fats, as well as diets high in fats. Rather than bore you with my own excitement about her findings, I suggest that you watch her video, which is only about 12 minutes long.


Many people who experience relief from acupuncture or other modalities wonder if it was the treatment, or the placebo effect.  My typical response is that I don’t care, so long as they feel better.

Much has been written about the Placebo Effect, and the article by Todd Hargrove which I’m attaching here has what I feel is a great explanation of it. Some text from the conclusion is below, and the full article may be read here.

The science of placebo is very interesting and informative. It is not unreasonable to suppose that a good degree of the success seen in movement-based therapies is through placebo-like effects, or through getting rid of nocebos. But I think the word placebo can be confusing. It refers to a wide variety of different phenomena that have different effects through different mechanisms.

Some placebo effects work through anxiety reduction, others through activation of the reward system, and others through descending inhibition of nociception. The common thread is they are all created by cognitive inputs – information that changes what the patient expects or believes about their health.

And this relates to another problem with the word placebo – it suggests that treatments which work through changes in client expectation are somehow inert, or ineffective, or not meaningful, or unethical, or even a scam. Of course this may very well be the case when the treatment is a sugar pill, or based on pseudoscience or quackery. In these instances, the clients’ expectations and beliefs are changed because they are deceived, and this is in most cases unethical.

But what if a treatment works primarily through changes in belief and expectation,but in a way that changes those beliefs to be more accurate? Consider the following scenarios, all of which might be described as involving placebo effects, but none of which involve deception:

  • a client is given accurate information about the poor correlation between back pain and objective MRI findings. This lowers his anxiety and pain.
  • a client is shown through passive and active movement that it is possible for her to bend forward without pain if she does so in a different manner. This reduces her anxiety, makes her expect benefit from therapy, and this reduces her pain.
  • a client receives compassionate and empathetic treatment from a caring therapist. This lowers his anxiety, makes him expect benefit, and thereby reduces his pain.
  • a client has had many past experiences with massage causing pain relief, and this learned association contributes to further pain relief from massage.

Are these all placebo effects? It is true that they all work in large part by changing the client’s beliefs. But that was the whole point of the treatment in the first place! So there should be no suggestion that the treatments are inert, ineffective or deceptive. Using the word placebo in these cases can be stigmatizing and confusing.

I prefer to look at it this way: pain results from perception of threat, and it can be treated by providing the client as much good news as possible about the threat in question.

Does this present an ethical issue? Only when that good news is built from lies and not the truth. Fortunately, I think there are many optimistic truths that clients can learn from therapists through touch, movement, and conversation.


Yoni Freedhoff, a doctor and professor at the University of Ottawa, was uninvited to a food industry breakfast three days before it was slated to happen. So he changed his schedule, cancelled his classes and moved his patients, and wrote up a speech. Shortly thereafter, he was un-invited, perhaps because his views would not agree with those of his hosts. So, instead of presenting his talk to the food industry he made a video of it and posted it to his Weighty Matters blog, in which he writes about all things food and obesity. In the video he discusses “what the food industry can do to improve public health, why they’re not going to do it and what we can do about it.”

The rant goes after the advertising of misleading, “healthy”-seeming products.It’s less than 15 minutes long and may be seen below…


Cardiologist William Davis seems to think so, and has published a book supporting his findings. He says that a protein added to modern wheat, gliadin, acts like an opiate in the body, which can also make wheat and wheat products both addictive and poisonous.

For more, check out this video on CBS News, and/or Dr. Davis’  book here.


A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine out April 17 provides evidence steroid injections for back pain are no more effective than a placebo. Because the long-term benefits of surgery remain unproven and pain medicines often have serious side effects, doctors have increasingly turned to steroid injections to treat lumbosacral radiculopathy, a common cause of back pain. The researchers conclude that steroids may provide some short-term analgesic effect, but that the improvement in all of the patients was mainly due to normal healing. The best thing for back pain, according to the study’s author? Exercise. See a quick summary of this research from the New York Times’ website.


Propelled by an increase in prescription narcotic overdoses, drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States, a Los Angeles Times analysis of government data has found. Fueling the surge are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol.

While most major causes of preventable death are declining, drugs are an exception. The death toll has doubled in the last decade, now claiming a life every 14 minutes. By contrast, traffic accidents have been dropping for decades because of huge investments in auto safety.

Public health experts have used the comparison to draw attention to the nation’s growing prescription drug problem, which they characterize as an epidemic. This is the first time that drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979.

Learn more by reading the article in the Los Angeles Times.


Recent studies have shown that adults who often feel grateful are more energetic, optimistic, happier and have more social connections than those who do not. What’s more, grateful people earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.  For more on all of this, check out this article in the Wall Street Journal from Melinda Beck.


By Maria Rainier, Guest Blogger

Natural healing remedies are healthy ways to find solutions to physical ailments without looking into medical doctors and traditional medicines. There are many alternative ways to heal the body without drugs whether you’re looking to cure a physical, mental or spiritual ailment – natural paths are effective, less expensive and healthy healing for your body.

Acupuncture and Healing

Studies have shown that acupuncture can help to deal with many physical ailments: respiratory, mouth, eye and gastrointestinal and also headaches and migraines. Acupuncture may also help control pain and minimize physical ailments via the insertion of fine needles into specific pressure points on the body. There are 2,000 acupoints located on the body where these needles can be inserted. Acupuncture and the insertion of these needles stimulate the central nervous system, which causes the body to release pain-relieving chemicals into the specific areas that are induced with pain.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is evidence to believe that acupuncture may cause a response from nerve cells in parts of the brain to act as a natural medicine, releasing hormones and proteins into the body in order to render normal body functions. Research suggests that acupuncture affects blood pressure and boosts the immune system, which causes endorphins to be released thus curing the body naturally.

Studies Proving the Positive Effects of Acupuncture:

The National Cancer Institute has ongoing clinical studies that test the effect of acupuncture on various diseases, pains and ailments from 1998 to present day. In a clinical study updated recently, the table results shows seven clinical studies that have been reported to use acupuncture for cancer treatment. Three studies were randomized and four were case series.

One of the randomized trials showed that patients in the acupuncture groups experienced significant improvements in their quality of life after 10 days of treatment. In a non-randomized observation with the use of acupuncture, studies showed that 20 patients using traditional treatments and medications were still experiencing pain but after acupuncture was applied to their ear and in some cases left in for 35 days; after 60 days of treatment, all 20 subjects noticed a decrease in pain or stability in pain.

A case later involving 183 cancer patients treated with acupuncture showed 52% were relieved of long-term pain after 1-4 weeks of treatment.

A case study with 29 patients who were suffering with malignant tumors received acupuncture treatment and all patients experienced relief – another case study showed very similar results.

Tables and results of these studies can be found on the National Cancer Institute Website. According to the National Cancer Institute, even though these results are significant for the study and practice of acupuncture and its affects on pain, there is still more need for standard outcome measurements and proper randomization in order to scientifically prove that acupuncture is an affective method for natural healing of pain and physical ailments. The study, however, shows the positive effects on pain in cancer patients, which shows that acupuncture is a natural and affective way to assist in curing and decreasing pain in physical ailments.


About the author of this blog entry: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online universities, and what an online degree means in an increasingly technological world. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Cited Sources:

National Cancer Institute

Human/clinical studies. (2011, February 03). Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/acupuncture/healthprofessional/Page5#Section_63

Questions and answers about acupuncture. (2010, December 09). Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/acupuncture/patient/Page2#Section_73


The National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has a site up now that provides qualified ‘facts’ on using acupuncture for pain, with a real focus on the evidence to support it.  If you’re interested in using acupuncture for pain relief, check out the NIH’s site at http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/acupuncture-for-pain.htm.

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