If confirmed, the findings could help researchers who study new drugs and other treatments a field where placebo responses can really muddy the results and make it unclear whether the real therapy is working. Perhaps one day researchers will be able to adjust their results to account for the individual placebo responses of volunteers in their clinical trials.
Zubieta notes that the new findings came from a study involving pain, but that it may also apply to how personality influences a person's response to other stress-inducing circumstances.
"We started this study not just looking at measures that might seem more obviously related to placebo responses, such as maybe impulsivity, or reward-seeking, but explored potential associations broadly without a particular hypothesis," he explains. "We ended up finding that the greatest influence came from a series of factors related to individual resiliency, the capacity to withstand and overcome stressors and difficult situations. People with those factors had the greatest ability to take environmental information -- the placebo -- and convert it to a change in biology."
He and his team, including first author, former MBNI postdoctoral fellow and now psychiatry research investigator Marta Pecia, M.D., Ph.D., hope to continue the research in people with depression, and to continue to explore how genetics as well as personality influence placebo response.
He notes that the findings may even have implications for the doctor-patient relationship for instance, patients who have certain personality traits and placebo-response tendencies may also be more likely to partner with their doctors on their care, and discuss frankly any concerns they have about their response to treatment.
How it was done:
The researchers conducted the study among n
|Contact: Kara Gavin|
University of Michigan Health System