I could hardly say no – after all, this was why I was here. Colloca’s colleague, Fabrizio Benedetti of the University of Turin in Italy, had invited me to come and experience their placebo research first hand. Colloca strapped an electrode to my forearm and sat me in a reclining chair in front of a computer screen. “Try to relax,” she said.
First, we established my pain scale by determining the mildest current I could feel, and the maximum amount I could bear. Then Colloca told me that, before I got another shock, a red or a green light would appear on the computer screen.
A green light meant I would receive a mild shock. A red light meant the shock would be more severe, like the jolt you get from an electric fence. All I had to do was rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, mild to severe. Continue reading “A Placebo Conundrum” by Michael Brooks
A HAIR-THIN needle pricks the skin. What happens next depends on who you ask. A traditional Chinese practitioner will tell you that acupuncture manipulates the body’s vital energy, Qi (pronounced chee), balancing the opposing forces of Yin and Yang. When Yin and Yang are in harmony, Qi flows freely along pathways called meridians and you stay healthy, but when the Qi gets blocked you become ill. Inserting needles into points along a meridian unblocks Qi and restores the body’s healthy balance.
Western scientists explain it differently. They say inserting needles at acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release morphine-like substances that block pain signals. It may also trigger neurotransmitters and neurohormones, which influence such dynamic systems as circulation and the immune response.
Ever since acupuncture caught on in the West, we’ve been seeking to replace the Eastern mysticism with hard facts. But clinical trials so far have produced a disappointingly mixed bag of results that don’t seem to back up the anecdotal claims for the wonders of acupuncture. There might be a steadily building case for clinical relief of some types of pain and nausea. But the inconclusive studies still outweigh the positive ones. Continue reading Acupuncture: East meets West
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Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterised by muscle pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. People with fibromyalgia have chronic widespread pain, as well as “tender points” on areas of the body, which hurt when slight pressure is applied. Although exercise appears to be an important part of fibromyalgia treatment, many people with fibromyalgia need medication to control symptoms and are unable to maintain muscle strength, flexibility, and overall fitness. Continue reading Tai Chi Benefits Patients With Fibromyalgia
Scientists are uncovering evidence that short periods of fasting, if properly controlled, could achieve a number of health benefits, as well as potentially helping the overweight, as Michael Mosley discovered.
I’d always thought of fasting as something unpleasant, with no obvious long term benefits. So when I was asked to make a documentary that would involve me going without food, I was not keen as I was sure I would not enjoy it.
But the Horizon editor assured me there was great new science and that I might see some dramatic improvements to my body. So, of course, I said, “yes”.
I am not strong-willed enough to diet over the long term, but I am extremely interested in the reasons why eating less might lead to increased life span, particularly as scientists think it may be possible to get the benefits without the pain.
How you age is powerfully shaped by your genes. But there’s not much you can do about that.
Calorie restriction, eating well but not much, is one of the few things that has been shown to extend life expectancy, at least in animals. We’ve known since the 1930s that mice put on a low-calorie, nutrient-rich diet live far longer. There is mounting evidence that the same is true in monkeys. Continue reading Michael Mosley on intermittent Fasting
HAS anyone told you lately you’re electric? Well, you are. Your every pore oozes with the stuff. Must be all those ions you’ve been pumping. And we’re not just talking about nerve impulses here: every surface of your body, from your skin to your cell membranes, is humming with electrical activity.
Biologists have known for more than 200 years that nerve impulses are transmitted electrically. But only recently have they started eavesdropping on the electrical chatter of the rest of your body, and have discovered that electricity, in the form of electric fields, plays a vital role in numerous biological processes from embryonic development to cell division, nerve regeneration and wound repair. “The phenomenon is broadly applicable and I think we have only scratched the surface of something that is evolutionarily highly conserved and widely used,” says Colin McCaig of the University of Aberdeen, UK, who has been working on the biological effects of electric fields since the 1980s. Continue reading The Body Electric
THE body’s ability to heal itself partly depends on natural electric fields, it has been proved for the first time. The work could lead to the development of drugs that speed up healing by enhancing these natural fields.
Cell migration and division plays a key role in development and healing. Most research in this area is on chemical factors, but several studies have shown that applying electric fields can affect migration and division as well. After successful trials in animals, for example, a team in the US is trying to encourage the healing of spinal cord injuries by applying an external field. Continue reading The Body gets a Healing boost from its inner Electric Fields