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Placebos & Depression

October 14, 2015

People who respond better to fake medicine may also get more relief from the real thing.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Fake drugs offer real relief. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Some people respond to fake medicine as if it’s real, while others get no relief at all. Now, scientists studying minor depression have found that these “placebo responders” may also benefit more from real antidepressants. University of Michigan clinical neuroscientist Marta Peciña:

MARTA PECIÑA (University of Michigan):

We tested the possibility that patients who have more natural painkillers in response to placebos, would also do better responding to antidepressant treatment.

HIRSHON:

Participants thought they were receiving a new medication that could quickly boost their mood, but it was actually a placebo. Brain scans revealed that the neurochemistry of the placebo responders differed from that of non-responders. The researchers write in the journal JAMA Psychiatry that after therapy with real antidepressants, placebo responders also reported fewer symptoms of depression. The findings could help clinicians tailor treatments to the individual. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.