Archive for the ‘Placebo’ Category

Fifty ways to leave your love… of the Placebo Model of Neurofeedback

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Neurofeedback has now existed for more than half a century, and it is flourishing in the clinical arena. Many academic researchers, meanwhile, are still stuck at first base worrying about the placebo as a complete explanation of neurofeedback efficacy–the proposition that neurofeedback is nothing but an expensive placebo. Looking at this collectively, it appears that the the placebo hypothesis is drawing much more interest among some academics than what is actually happening in the clinical realm. To those of us inhabiting the real world of clinical practice, this is such a ludicrous spectacle that it is difficult to take seriously. Researchers tend to orient to the published literature and thus listen only to each other. That misses most of the ferment, vitality, originality, and diversity of the field, which happens to reside almost exclusively in the world at large rather than in the formal environs of the research laboratory. Much of the resulting novelty and diversity has not found its way into the journals for the simple reason that clinicians by and large don’t publish their work. They network with other clinicians at conferences and through the Internet.


Faith Healing

Friday, April 21st, 2017

By Siegfried Othmer, PhD


The Los Angeles Times today (4/19/17) focused on the issue of faith healing and its sanctioning under the law in Idaho. Leading off was the story of a mother who had lost four children. Yes, she confessed to some anger at God at the loss of her four children, but matters were in His hands, and State law did not allow for interference by medical or other State agencies.


Placebo Puffery

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

By Siegfried Othmer, PhD

placeboIf the placebo is such a big deal, why is it not being diligently studied? Why is the ‘cause’ of the placebo ‘effect’ not being looked for? If this is such a huge factor that it governs all drug studies, surely it deserves some attention in its own right.


The Role of Amateurs in Science

Monday, November 19th, 2007

There is one field in which an extensive mutually beneficial relationship has existed between amateurs and professionals. It is in astronomy, and the phenomenon was recently taken up in Science Magazine by John Bohannon (Volume 318, 12 October 2007, pp 192-3). Significantly, this symbiosis is occurring in a science in which we have only limited ability to do experiments. Mostly the science is observational. Most of the scientific observations are specifically targeted and hypothesis-based. They are so numerous that time on the big observatories for each project is scarce and therefore precious. But there is another crucial aspect of astronomy that focuses on celestial events that are not predictable either in time or place. This is mostly where the amateurs come in. They represent a world-wide army of knowledgeable observers that is on watch every night around the globe. (more…)

Intelligent Design, Spontaneous Remission and the Placebo

Friday, September 14th, 2007

This is not going to be an article on Intelligent Design. But Intelligent Design is a member of a class of concepts that appear in scientific dialogue without ever having earned their way in the usual fashion of combining theory with evidence. Now Intelligent Design just happens to be a concept that scientists would like to banish from the discourse. But other concepts that similarly lack the particulars of a scientific theory have overcome the immune reaction and reside happily among us. Examples are the placebo effect, the idea of spontaneous remission, and the Anthropic Principle. These concepts were never intended to become true science. They serve a useful function as placeholders, even as overt “untheories.”

Just as the idea of Intelligent Design makes a place–at least in principle–for a “God of the gaps,” the placebo model and spontaneous remission serve in the role of filling gaps in our scientific models. Matters are least ambiguous with regard to the concept of spontaneous remission. No scientist who is uncomfortable with the idea of Intelligent Design is any more comfortable with the idea of spontaneous remission. The term is not meant literally. One assumes that the spontaneous remission of cancer will ultimately yield to mechanistic understanding. But we have not been prepared to deal with that issue up to now. So everyone understands that spontaneous remission is just a placeholder that allows the conversation to proceed on issues that we can handle. (more…)

Antidepressants may not offer relief in Bipolar Disorder

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

PillsAn article in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine finds that anti-depressants don’t contribute significantly to the recovery of bipolar patients. It is estimated that some 70% of bipolars are also being prescribed one or another anti-depressant. Since these are not fast-acting medications, it is often difficult to tell which of the medications being prescribed are actually doing the work.The surprise in the paper, however, was something else. It turns out that the placebo group did better than the medication group! Not only did the addition of anti-depressants fail to improve outcome, but the outcome was actually somewhat worse overall than among those who did not have anti-depressants added to their regimen. The difference was not statistically significant, according to the researchers. Some 23.5% of the treatment arm made “durable recoveries,” whereas some 27.3% of the placebo group did so. (more…)


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