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And as so many of you know, I’m not one to have much of that myself

When patients in a recent medical survey were informed that their treatment cost $2000 dollars a shot, their ability to control their movements improved twice as much as when they were told it cost only $130.  Says an editorial in the journal Neurology, which published the study:  ‘This takes the study of a placebo effect to a whole new dimension’

Intriguingly the researchers offer a physiological explanation  of their findings, pointing out that people with Parkinson’s lose their motor skills because their brains release too little dopamine – a hormone whose production is increased by belief., novelty and the expectation of reward. 

Meanwhile most of us have come to believe things that cost a great deal must be superior to cheaper alternatives.  So it’s because Parkinson’s sufferers expect a $2000 drug to work better than a $130 jab that their brains produce more dopamine – and hey presto, it does work better (even when it’s not a drug at all, but a saline solution.

I hasten to say that I’m no scientist, but I can’t help feeling that this discovery, by the University of Cincinnati, explains an awful lot about the world beyond medicine.

To borrow the words of the old Stella Artoise advertisement, it’s surely precisely because these things are ‘reassuringly expensive’  that people appreciate them so enormously, it’s the dopamine effect, the self-fulfilling expectation of reward.

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