Placebo: Mind over Matter in Modern Medicine Paperback – 4 Oct 2010
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‘Should prove fascinating and stimulating to expert and ordinary readers alike’ Marek Kohn, Evening Standard
‘Persuasive, elegant and challenging.’ Michael Bywater, Daily Telegraph
‘The placebo effect is fundamental to medical treatment, and this book brilliantly explores the scientific evidence in an accessible and gripping manner.’ Lewis Wolpert
‘The placebo effect, of such huge importance in our lives, is an effect which according to conventional scientific wisdom ought not to exist. Now, out of left field, springs a modern-day philosopher with challenging – and persuasive – ideas about what the effect amounts to and why.’ Nicholas Humphrey
From the Publisher
A fresh and original take on a subject of growing importance: there is now a Society of Integrated Medicine, founded to examine how alternative and medical science can work more effectively together. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The author draws on a wide variety of disciplines to argue his case for an evolutionary design for the placebo response in humans; an alteration in the distribution of different immune cells in order to balance energy expenditure with fighting off infection. Generally scientific journals are not keen on grand unifying theories for peer-reviewed articles so a book like this is a great outlet for the author's imagination. One of the major strengths of this book is that he avoids the temptation to uncritcally cite studies in his favour; he does point out their (often profound) limitations and tries to coax rather than preach his point of view. If nothing else, this is an excellent exercise in persuasion on scientific theory.
Would I recommend it for a patient wanting to find out more about the use of placebos in a clinical setting? Probably not, it's a little too technical in places. As another reviewer commented, great size for the bus or the train and indeed this has accompanied me to work on several occasions. A good read, but know what you're getting into!
By exploring recent research in evolutionary biology and immunology, Evans proposes a new theory on how placebos work while investigating and evaluating current ideas of health and disease. He looks at the history of the placebo effect and investigates the efficacy of placebos by sifting the evidence and providing an opinion on which medical problems can be cured by its use.
In chapter 3, The Acute Phase Response, Evans sets out his theory of the function of a single biological mechanism in the placebo phenomenon; he also states that this is not a proven theory and needs much further research. The next chapter looks at the belief effect, the key mental event that triggers physiological processes that result in healing.
Investigating the physical and psychological aspects of health in evolutionary context, he also considers the potential of placebos to harm. In more metaphysical terms, one may say he looks at positive and negative mental energy, the curse and the blessing, but in scientific terms. Various alternative healing modalities are also discussed, as well as psychotherapy, which the author claims may be the purest placebo.
Ethical questions are considered next in the chapter The Witch Doctor’s Dilemma. The author concludes that the impressive findings of recent scientific research in mind-body medicine have revealed that the healing power of the mind may not be unlimited, but that it is certainly not insignificant.Read more ›
However, this is a somewhat limited study of the placebo effect. This may be partly to do with revelations that have occurred since the book was written (which of course is not the author's fault) but I believe some information may have been available at the time. Firstly, he is incorrect about the range of conditions that respond to placebo - it is much wider than he states and has been shown to be effective in everything from arthroscopic surgery to Crohn's disease, IBS, asthma and about 40 other illnesses.
Other placebo research has shown that areas of the brain are activated when people are given a placebo, meaning it is not just an illusory or imagined effect. And perhaps most fascinatingly of all, people have been found to improve even after being told that they were receiving placebo, something that contradicts a large part of Evans' argument that belief is necessary for placebo to be effective.
Also of interest is the fact that in recent years the placebo effect has been increasing, with a greater number of clinical trials failing, not because the drugs aren't effective, but because the placebo response is getting stronger. Experts speculate this is because of the incessant advertising by big pharma and our seeming unwavering faith in them.Read more ›
The book introduces the Placebo effect to the reader who previously knew nothing about it - and should also be (re)viewed in this perspective. There might not exist enourmous amounts reliable evidence concerning the placebo effect, but I still missed 100 extra pages with more detailed descriptions of the experiments already done as well as a more thourogh presentation of the other placebo theories other than the authors own.
But, in the current size the books is extremely well fitted for a pocket and can be read in busses and trains. For a more thourough understandig of the placebo effect you'd have to consult medical and psychological litterature.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This appears to be an update of "Placebo: the belief effect" 2003 which I just read on Holiday. ( my daughter's excellent 2nd hand book xmas present to me). Read morePublished 19 months ago by One Girl's view
Highly informative and scrupulously objective.Evans guides his readers through the polarised arguments and often scant scientific data with great skill. Read morePublished on 15 May 2013 by Mr. M. Harrison
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