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The nocebo effect: Media reports may trigger symptoms of a disease
Date:5/6/2013

Media reports about substances that are supposedly hazardous to health may cause suggestible people to develop symptoms of a disease even though there is no objective reason for doing so. This is the conclusion of a study of the phenomenon known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Those affected report experiencing certain symptoms on exposure to electromagnetic waves, such as those emitted by cell phones, and these take the form of physical reactions. With the help of magnetic resonance imaging, it has been demonstrated that the regions of the brain responsible for pain processing are active in such cases. "Despite this, there is a considerable body of evidence that electromagnetic hypersensitivity might actually be the result of a so-called nocebo effect," explained Dr. Michael Witthft of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). "The mere anticipation of possible injury may actually trigger pain or disorders. This is the opposite of the analgesic effects we know can be associated with exposure to placebos." The new study illustrates how media reports about health risks may trigger or amplify nocebo effects in some people.

Frequently, the media reports on the potential health risks associated with the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) produced by cell phones, cell phone masts, high-voltage lines, and Wi-Fi devices. People who are sensitive to electromagnetic fields report symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, burning or tingling sensations on their skin, and they attribute these effects to this radiation. Some people actually skip work or withdraw from their social environment because of their electromagnetic hypersensitivity and in extreme cases they may even move to remote regions to get away from electrical equipment altogether. "However, tests have shown that the people affected are unable to tell if they have really been exposed to an electromagnetic field. In fact, their symptoms are triggered in exactly the same way if they are exposed to genu
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Contact: Dr. Michael Witthft
witthoef@uni-mainz.de
49-613-139-39202
Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz
Source:Eurekalert

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