The Power of the Placebo Effect
What is the "placebo effect"? It turns out to be much more than what happens when a patient takes a sugar pill in a clinical trial. An emerging field of study is redefining “the placebo effect” as everything that surrounds the health care experience that can influence patient outcomes—from a positive doctor-patient interaction to the power of imagination, hope, trust, persuasion, and compassion.
The field’s growing body of research has produced clinical and neurobiological evidence that these placebo effects may themselves have medical benefits and can even enhance the effectiveness of existing medicines and procedures. If the placebo effect is to become a legitimate addition to the clinician’s toolbox, then we must better understand its underlying mechanisms and the circumstances in which it is most effective.
The Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS) hosted at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is the first research center dedicated to studying the placebo effect through interdisciplinary, translational research initiatives that bridge the basic, clinical, and social sciences, as well as the humanities.