[Neuroscience] The Placebo Effect on the Rat Immune Response

John H. via neur-sci%40net.bio.net (by johnh from goawayplease.com)
Sun Dec 9 03:25:03 EST 2007

In the space of 3 days I have read two books citing this experiment and it 
is baffling. Please don't try and wash it away with a rationalisation of the 
dumbass kind, it is very obvious to any honest clinician that a person's 
attitude can have a profound effect on disease progression. Nor is this 
spooky, the problem can be couched within a neuro-endocrine-immunological 
axis of understanding; though I admit that paradigm certainly cannot explain 
all that comes under the umbrella of the placebo effect. So it still might 
be spooky ...

In this experiment the Bob Ader and Nick Cohen decided to see if the immune 
system could be trained to respond to a conditioned stimulus. The paired the 
sweet taste of saccharine wtih an anticancer drug that suppresses immune 
immune function, cyclophosphamide. They fed the drug and the saccharine to 
the rats over and over again. Each time the immunosuppressive drug was given 
the immune cell count went down. Then they took away the drug and just gave 
the saccharine alone. The immune cell count fell again. Before the 
conditioning process the saccharine had no impact on immune cell count.

I cannot find a way to understand this. Yes the brain and immune systems do 
influence each other great deal but nothing in our current understanding can 
explain this.

Now if the placebo effect is about suggestion then these are very clever 
rats. You might want to look up the Norman Cousins and Henry Beecher. Then 
you'll really get confused. (Those two instances I can offer a plausible 
explanation but this one has me stumped.)Why the placebo effect is ignored 
is beyond me. I suspect it simply doesn't fit into our current understanding 
so people wash it away with some dumbass explanation. This is what happened 
to Ader and Cohen, initially their results were treated with derision. If 
anyone knows if someone has come up with an explanation for this effect I 
sure would like to hear it.


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