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Placebo effect not purely psychological

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ANN ARBOR, Mich., Aug 23, 2005 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- A University of Michigan study suggests just believing a medicine will relieve pain is enough to prompt one's brain to release its own natural painkillers.

The researchers -- led by Dr. Jon-Kar Zubieta, an associate professor of psychiatry and radiology -- said their study provides the first direct evidence the brain's own pain-fighting chemicals, called endorphins, play a role in the phenomenon known as the placebo effect, resulting in a reduction in feelings of pain.

Previous studies showed the brain reacts physically when a person is given a sham pain treatment expected to help.

But Zubieta said the most recent study is the first to pinpoint a specific brain chemistry mechanism for a pain-related placebo effect. He said the results might result in better use of psychological therapy for people suffering chronic pain.

The results are published in the Aug. 24 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience by a team from the the university's Molecular and Behavioral Neurosciences Institute.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International.

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