For the study, a medical team induced pain by injecting concentrated salt water solution into the jaws of 14 healthy young men who agreed to the experiment. The injections were given while the men underwent positron emission tomography (PET) scans. The men were told they would receive pain medicine. Instead, they were given a placebo. After the experiment, they provided more detailed pain ratings. They looked at the response of pain control systems in the brain. They observed that a placebo that was believed to be an agonistic agent was able to enhance the release of these anti-pain endogenous opioids.
According to the research, the belief that a pill will relieve pain is enough to cause the brain to release its own natural painkillers.The finding is the first direct evidence that the brain's own pain-fighting chemicals, endorphins, have a role in the phenomenon known as the "placebo effect" -- and that this response corresponds with a reduction in feelings of pain. This is telling us that placebos are powerful. "When there is a belief that something may take place, this belief actually activates systems in your brain that are directly modifying experience. If you receive a drug and you believe it is active, the drug itself might not be doing very much." said the leader of the research.
While some people believe this is an important finding, others believe that this question of a mind-body connection "is not even 16th-century quality thinking”. However, what is interesting is the technology that makes the results visible.