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Don’t try this at home. Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away.

This is the placebo effect: somehow, sometimes, a whole lot of nothing can be very powerful. Except it’s not quite nothing. When Fabrizio Benedetti of the University of Turin in Italy carried out the above experiment, he added a final twist by adding naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of morphine, to the saline. The shocking result? The pain-relieving power of saline solution disappeared.

So what is going on? Doctors have known about the placebo effect for decades, and the naloxone result seems to show that the placebo effect is somehow biochemical. But apart from that, we simply don’t know.

Benedetti has since shown that a saline placebo can also reduce tremors and muscle stiffness in people with Parkinson’s disease. He and his team measured the activity of neurons in the patients’ brains as they administered the saline. They found that individual neurons in the subthalamic nucleus (a common target for surgical attempts to relieve Parkinson’s symptoms) began to fire less often when the saline was given, and with fewer “bursts” of firing – another feature associated with Parkinson’s. The neuron activity decreased at the same time as the symptoms improved: the saline was definitely doing something.

We have a lot to learn about what is happening here, Benedetti says, but one thing is clear: the mind can affect the body’s biochemistry. “The relationship between expectation and therapeutic outcome is a wonderful model to understand mind-body interaction, ” he says. Researchers now need to identify when and where placebo works. There may be diseases in which it has no effect. There may be a common mechanism in different illnesses. As yet, we just don’t know.

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Taming The Wild Horse:
A Talk On Moving From Fear and Agression To Calm In Daily Life with Michael Gordon
Sept. 3rd 7pm

Sponsored by Awake In Action, a program of the Vancouver Shambhala Centre.
Vancouver Shambhala Center
3275 Heather Street
Vancouver, BC

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Please visit for online therapy now.

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From a story on the CBC website:
victimtalks0704045.jpgA B.C. woman who survived being shot in the face by her estranged husband is speaking out against what she calls an epidemic of domestic violence in the Indo-Canadian community.In an exclusive interview with CBC News on Wednesday, Gurjeet Kaur Ghuman described how her husband climbed into her car last October in Port Coquitlam with a gun, shot her and then turned the gun on himself.”

Ghuman survived this horrific attack, and is left with a brain injury and blindess.The reality is that there is an epidemic of domestic violence, though not only in the Indo-Canadian community. This is a widespread social problem. Estimates are that up to 50% of all homicides are domestic violence cases.

Ghuman repeatedly stated that she feels “hatred” for what her ex-husband did. The key thing here is that she is addressing his actions, and not condemning the man himself. Still, she has the courage to step forward and speak out to this issue, to bring it out of the darkness.

My feeling is that, apart from serious mental disorders, this issue points to the (self) destructive behaviour in men, as it manifests mosts extremely. Often it also cascades into other addictive behaviour, in which I include physical violence.

My intention is to engage in community work and education on this issue as preventative/rehabilitative practice. I welcome your insight into how to facilitate this process.

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