Fitmodo: How The Placebo Effect Works

Welcome to Fitmodo, your regular weekly round up of the news you need to know to keep your earthly form in top shape — from fitness advice to breakthroughs in medical research.

This week:

Red Bull Can Help With Psychosis (Seriously)

New Australian research shows that taurine (yep, the stuff that’s in Red Bull) improves symptoms in young people suffering a first episode of psychosis.

Taurine is an amino acid naturally occurring in the body that has various functions, including aiding the function of the cardiovascular system. It inhibits chemical regulation in the nervous system, and also protects the path of neurons in the brain, as well as being involved in development of the nervous system.


The Placebo Effect Works Even When People Know The Pills Are Fake

Deception is necessary for placebo pills to work, or at least that’s the conventional wisdom. A surprising new study on patients with chronic back pain shows that we still experience the placebo effect, even when we know we’re being tricked.

This study reminds me of a Simspons gag. There’s an outbreak of the Osaka Flu in Springfield. A mob beseeches Dr Hibbert, “We need a cure!” He says, “Ho ho ho, why the only cure is bed rest. Anything I give you would be a placebo.” Someone immediately pleads, “Where can we get these placebos?!”


Brain Implant Allows Paralysed Man To Feel Objects With A Prosthetic Limb

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC have developed a system that’s enabling a man with quadriplegia to experience the sensation of touch through a robotic arm that he controls with his brain.

Prosthetic limbs are getting better all the time, but they’re still not able to convey the sense of touch to the user. That’s a serious limitation given just how important touch is for hand use. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a piece of cake or the fork we use to take a bite out of it. A research team led by Robert A. Gaunt from the University of Pittsburgh is the first to develop a system that overcomes this limitation, allowing a paralysed 28-year-old man to feel objects through a robotic limb.


13-Month-Old Twins Conjoined At The Head Successfully Separated

adon and Anias McDonald were born joined at the head last September. On Thursday evening, 40 medical professionals spent 16 hours disconnecting Jadon and Anias in a rare operation. The McDonalds are from Coal City, Illinois, but the surgery was performed at Montefiore Medical Centre in New York City, led by surgeon Dr. James Goodrich, who “used high-tech imaging systems to help fully detach the boys’ skull and brain tissue,” according to The Independent.

“The boys ended up sharing a 5x7cm area of brain tissue with no definite plane for dissection… so Dr. Goodrich had to make the call and the final cut based on his instinct,” their mother Nicole McDonald wrote in a Facebook post. Jadon handled the procedure like “a rock star.” Anias’ blood pressure and heart rate dropped during the surgery, and doctors “are predicting that at first he may not be able to move one or both sides of his body, based on the area of brain that was dissected.”


Scientists Create Fully Functional Eggs From Skin Cells

Using skin cells extracted from mice, researchers in Japan have produced fully functional egg cells that were used to produce healthy mouse pups. Should the method work in humans, it could introduce powerful new ways of treating infertility — and even allow same-sex couples to produce biological offspring.

This is the first time ever that scientists have produced functional mammalian eggs entirely within the confines of a petri dish. In a new study published in Nature Research, Katsuhiko Hayashi and colleagues from Kyushu University in Japan describe a new technique in which viable “artificial eggs” can be generated with stem cells, and then fertilised to produce healthy and fertile mouse pups. It’s also the first time that eggs have been produced entirely outside of a mouse.


Also catching our eye:

  • Emma Gorrick, now 30, was 25 and newly engaged when she was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. Popsugar Australia has her story.
  • Having trouble staying motivated for the gym? You're not alone. Lifehacker Australia has the answers.

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