The Power of Suggestion

The Placebo Effect

In biological terms, a placebo is a tablet, pill, or injection prescribed by a doctor to heal said problem. The reason we do not call it that is because it only contains some inactive substances like starch or sugar. The healing process is not initiated by a drug acting on our neurotransmitters, but by the Power of Suggestion; That it will work.

Oxford Languages defines the Placebo Effect as “a beneficial effect produced by a placebo drug or treatment, which cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment.”

A placebo works its magic using the patient’s belief in the treatment and the doctor. The more serious a treatment seems the better its effects. A capsule works better just because it seems more important than a tablet. There even is evidence that sham surgeries have positive effects and not just psychologically, but also real physical healing.

McGill University’s Study Of An Accessory-Assisted Placebo

Micheal Stevens from Vsause participated in this study in an episode of Mind Field along with Jay Olson and Dr. Samuel Veissiere of McGill University.

The Subjects

  1. Malaya, 12 years old, suffers from a skin ailment, Eczema. She has also developed a skin picking disorder, Dermatillomania. She finds it satisfying to pick her skin while acknowledging that it is unhealthy. She often wears long sleeves to cover her hands, turned red and itchy from all the picking and scratching.
  2. Nicholas, 12 years old, suffers from migraine headaches. He first hit his head on a soccer post and then again in a game of hockey. He had headaches every day after that. He threw up often and saw colors right before a headache.
  3. Nathan, 9 years old, suffers from ADHD/Impulse Control Disorder. Tantrums, an inability to communicate with him, hyperactivity, impulsivity were his pre-diagnosis symptoms as per his mother.

What The Study Did

The placebo they used was a sham MRI scanner.

Dr. Samuel Veissiere says, “There is immense power attached to the culture of neuroscience whereby neuroscientific props and accessories have more healing power, more physiological effects because culturally people believe that they do. I mean, the same kind of cognitive mechanisms are at play in religious systems. So, here we are praying to the gods of neuroscience and biomedicine.”

That is called Neuroenchantment.

The parents knew the MRI was a placebo, but for it to work on the kids, they had to believe in the procedure. So Micheal asked some of his YouTube friends to create videos regarding how the procedure works, raising their expectations without revealing the placebo part. Those videos were shown to the kids, and they have started to fall in place.

A friendly fake nurse, a long walk through an impressive hallway, and a 10-minute anticipation building wait outside the lab; All increased the neuroenchantment. Once a kid got in, they let him/her lie on the patient table. They told them and their parents that everything in that room was a suggestion; A way to tap into the power of their mind. They emphasized that it is their brain doing the healing. But what the kids did not know was that the machine was turned off. The sound of magnets and mechanical whirring were all replicated using speakers.

Micheal’s role in this was to build up the kid’s belief that it would work. Making claims as they would relax as they go deeper into the machine and asking if they felt any different helped doing that.

As Malaya went in, Dr. Veissiere planted a suggestion. “You might notice some unusual feelings, perhaps a tingling. Your brain is continuing to learn, and to heal, and to help you find this constant feeling of confidence.”

When each of them was interviewed after their sessions, they expressed feelings on their faces, random tingling, et cetera. But Nathan, being the impulsive and hyperactive kid he is, wanted to sleep.

Before the kids left for the day, Dr. Veissiere suggested that that day’s session will help them in their healing process. They also provided them with Octopus by JOY smartwatches specially programmed to remind the kids, in between visits, that their brain was healing itself.

Dr. Veissiere said, “Just having the watch with you will make you feel better. But it’s not the watch, or it’s not the machine that’s making you feel good; It’s your own brain.” tapping his head.

After 6 Weeks

After 6 weeks of continued visits, Malaya was basically cured. She was wearing a tank top when Micheal visited her.

Nicholas has had no migraine since. Not even a day. Nicholas’ neurologist thought it was “quite remarkable.”

And Nathan, they went an entire summer off the medicine, and he was doing great!

‘Suggestion’ is a simple word. Most of us probably never considered that something as simple, when strategically performed, could drive someone to better places. But what if it is performed in a not-so-strategic way? How bad could the effects get? Surely something to think about because we do it every day and not just to others, also ourselves.

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