A research group out of Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute has presented new findings surrounding the physical influence that our beliefs have on the brain. In the study, now published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, subjects were given identical cigarettes, but some were told that their cigarettes were nicotine-free. After smoking the cigarettes, participants engaged in a reward-based learning game, during which time their brains were scanned. The team of researchers found that the people who “believed they had smoked nicotine cigarettes made different choices and had different neural signals than the other participants, despite the fact that both groups had consumed the same substance. The scientists also found people who believed they had smoked nicotine had significantly higher activity in their reward-learning pathways. Those who did not believe they had smoked nicotine did not exhibit those same signals.”
Researchers are very interested in these findings, as they go even beyond the concept of the placebo effect. The singular belief that they had taken in no nicotine modulated activity in the brain, though they had indeed taken in the same amount of nicotine as the others.
Click here to read more about the research from Science Daily.