In 1975, psychologist Robert Ader was studying taste aversion in rats when he found something completely perplexing.
He fed rats saccharin (sugar) water, which rats love. Then he added Cytoxan, a drug that made them feel sick. The rats eventually refused to drink the solution, even when he removed the drug and tried to feed them plain saccharin water. Next, Robert force-fed rats the surgary solution and the rats died!
The rats’ bodies reacted as though they had received the immunosuppressive drug and subsequently died from infection, even though they had received the same simple sugar water they started with at the beginning of the experiment.
What if you could do the opposite and trick your brain into thinking you had medicine even when you didn’t? That’s the power of the placebo effect and is one of the most studied phenomenons in science.
Authors Ader and Ferguson study brain-immune interactions, but admit there is little to no interest in this field from immune system scientists. If the placebo effect is so strong, and can literally kill rats, why not use it to cure humans?