Erik Vance The Drugs Inside Your Head


So here's some exciting news from being studios our podcast. This movie changed me is back. Each episode is hosted by our very own movie obsessed executive producer Lily Percy and is like a love letter to movies and their power to teach connect and transform us you don't and have to watch the movies in advance but if you love groundhog day or the wizard of Oz or black panther or cocoa or even the exorcist you're already the ahead this is also a fabulous audio experience great thoughts laughter a few tears and immersive moving music and moments this season features conversations with Seth Godin Naomi Alderman and Ao Scott new episodes are out every Tuesday. If you haven't listened yet it's time learn more as always add on being dot org support for on being with Krista Tippett comes from the Fetzer Institute helping build the spiritual spiritual foundation for a loving world Fetzer envisions a world that embraces love as a guiding principle and animating force for our lives a powerful love that helps us. I live in sacred relationship with ourselves others and the natural world learn more by visiting Fetzer Dot Org the science writer and reporter Eric Vance Vance thinks that present day brain scientists are like astronomers of old they unsettled humanities sense itself by redrawing our picture of the cosmos out out there. We're now learning a huge new reality shifting story about the universe within us. Eric Vance has investigated what he calls the theater theater of medicine which it turns out is often more closely connected to what we believe and what we fear than to the efficacy of this treatment or with that in fact most drugs that go to trial can't be what we've dismissively called the placebo effect but the placebo effect is nothing less within an unleashing of the superpowers of the brain. There's a whole theory around pain. That says chronic pain isn't really something wrong with you. It's just the chemicals uncle's in your brain haven't been set to the right levels so we're all in pain right now from whatever injuries we've ever had. It's just that your brain has set the levels of its own dodgems opioids to a point where you don't feel it anymore. which is will mess with your head? I promise you if you think about it long enough that will mess with your head but it is are the sense of like look you know you're not trying to get rid of something something you just trying to reset the levels and that's within us all I'm Krista Tippett and this is on a being eric. Vance is the author of suggested you the curious science of your brain's Raines ability to deceive transform and heal we spoke together with a live audience at the two thousand nineteen beyond Religion Conference of the Pulitzer Center in Washington. DC The question I often ask whoever I'm interviewing is about the religious background of someone's child how you would describe that and the religious background of your childhood is very intricately interwoven with a lot of science writing. You've been done and certainly the research behind your book suggestive will you so yeah. If I just I just ask you to start talking about the religious background of your child child had how you described that now sure so I was raised in Christian Science and Chris you know don't go to doctors that's sort of what they're known for and when I describe Chris Science will probably offend criticise by doing this but this is the way I've always considered it is it's kind of like the movie the Matrix if you ever I saw the Matrix for basically everything you see it. It doesn't really exist you know the world is sort of a mental construct and that's not a terribly new idea. I mean you look at the NAS sticks. Ancient Nas takes or the Sufis. There's a lot of people over the course of human history who have lots of mistakes have sort of had this idea that that the ah the world doesn't really exist in a contract in your mind but if physicists talk to it's interesting how that works if you take it to its logical conclusion then why bother going to a doctor when you can just fix it with your mind isn't there is very much and I really got this from your writing a culture of healing yep practice of healing and the way I understood it and tell me if this is correct. Is that what you're talking about is this that there is health and there is wholeness and it's this is about living into that true true a reality will and this yeah it's very true. this actually does work now. There are limits to it and this this is a theme I saw throughout working on this book and and in my career is people are not crazy and stepping on the outside it might look odd or crazy but if you get inside and really get to know the people involved Christian scientists aren't crazy. They are acting in a way that they believe in the best interest of their children themselves. It is the best pathway to health and what I saw growing up is that it is that these things did work. I mean obviously I believed that I was in a very passionate for a number of years and it did work. I saw healings happened so as after I got out of the religion we'll tell you so you went to the doctor for the first time when you're eighteen tell me about that. What was that like well? I was not not a good patient needs. Some of you guys probably know that your experience. The doctor is only as good as the as the patient is willing to be working with them. I had these horrible stomach pains and I went to the doctor sort of felt around on my stomach like some sort of like a witch doctor which I now know he was checking my Bendix who is looking for gallstones but he felt my stomach and then he said Oh. It's growing pains and you go on your way. I have not been missing that it's it's a feel your stomach and tell you it's growing. I didn't tell them that I had been in Mexico the year before it clearly I had some sort of parasite that hung around for a couple of years until I for another reason took a bunch of antibiotics went away but I remember walking are being like wow these guys are all quacks. Oh that's funny. so yeah you studied biology you got into your rock climbing payment rock climbing guide and environmental consultant an environmental educator journal Science journalist and then it seems like you. I wonder if this is true. It's feels like you even come out of this. Thinking people are lying there fooling themselves but there's something happening something else happening and he wanted to know what that something else is. Yeah it actually came about a brain mapping conference and one of the keynote speakers was a name his name is tore wigger as an unusual will name also turned out to be a Christian Science Society correctly. She recognized him from college in College. I was I was like wow that's weird and he's giving a talk on placebos and it was a little light went off and I was like wow that that and it's a little like I say it's a little like a former Catholic studying leading the brain circuitry around guilt. You know I mean it's it's hard to ignore this like once you know once you get this question you grown up with this. It's very hard is not to be wondering what the mechanisms might be in what you've seen and so I I was hooked you know I did a story about him. And then I just kept trying to do more stories about this phenomena so you have likened brain scientists to modern day analogs of what comparing apparently this did in terms of pulling back Availa pulling back the curtain on on a fuller reality and and a big piece of this that you focus on it are are the mechanisms and intricacies of what we call the placebo effect and you know how many times have any of US heard the phrase. It's just the placebo affect right and in fact it's a cornerstone of the modern pharmaceutical industry even the medications work. There's some kind of placebo effect going on in terms of how quickly we feel. They work and this is this huge. It masks asks the the way we've talked about placebo and treated at mask. Is this huge story. We haven't told about ourselves and about reality. You're absolutely right. I I mean when you think about like modern medicine was modern medicine. Modern medicine is something that can outperform a placebo and it's not that old but nine hundred sixty two I think is when the US made that's the definition of drug that works right exactly that that is and before that I mean we don't really consider that evidence based medicine so the foundation of when we reconsider medicine is is it better than your own mind which is kind of not often isn't which often especially and and what I've learned and what's interesting about placebo. The CBO is that it does not affect everything equally things like pain irritable Bowel Syndrome Parkinson's disease anxiety and depression. Some autoimmune diseases is and maybe addiction depending on how you work on a little harder study like these things you know how this hub very high placebo rates people get something like autism or OCD OCD. They have very low placebo. Threat Alzheimer's has a low and there is some suggestion that whatever and we there's so much we we still don't understand about placebo but whatever the trigger is that those conditions might also be affecting whatever that trigger is right Yeah Alzheimer's is another one and and it's not clear why but it placebos one of the things they do is they tap into the drugs you already have inside your head right cancers another one. You can't just think away a tumor. The unfortunate thing is you can be you can be very effective against the symptoms of cancer so it feels like the answer's going away but we don't have the tools does your brain can't pull away the tumor but it can have dramatic effects on things like pain and Parkinson's so so you know when they first started doing placebo controlled trials they you know they got rid of a thousand drugs that they were using which is back it was a lot put that the thought worked and could not outperform the placebo so let's talk about what you've learned about what the placebo effect is. I mean there. Is this language language. It's the brains pharmacy do you. Is that every somewhere you said. endorphins are little opium dens tucked away in our brains but it's actually you've gone into much greater detail about about what that means and some of your talk about is that is core to understanding this is that the brain is at its core a prediction machine so explain what that has to do with this reaction action of hours or this capacity. This is a great. It's a great segue and this is really important point if you boil down what your brain does to a single idea idea I mean this is fundamentally. What a brain is based on artificial intelligence going back fifty years? It is a prediction machine. Everything your brain does it takes the past it a applies to the present to predict the future and it doesn't small ways. It's basically creating a map of how the world works based on the experiences that happened to it and if you watch a little baby crawling around they're like figuring this stuff out there like you know gravity like that's painful if you're not careful and that's your brain learns from that and then it learns you know where it can step in where it can't step and everywhere along the line. Your brain is taking these observations and turning them into predictions that it uses them out the world. So when can you give someone a sugar pill and you take away your pain and it's not a circus trick. This is getting down to the very fundamental role your brain has and when you take hake that pill and if this is everyone but if you're paying goes away it's partly because your brain has an expectation that when you take a pill your pain goes away and sometimes it's easier for your brain to change reality than it is to change an expectation think if your brain is like a bureaucrat who look I punched hunch this paper and I get the paper. That's what I do and you give me the bill and the pain goes away and if it doesn't happen. I'm just GonNa make the pain go away. Why didn't work? I'm just like I haven't one job. That's what I do and it's kind of how it is. It's very heartbreaking. Expectations so placebo effect is taking advantage of this fact that your brain doesn't want to divert from what it expects. There's also some interesting story about the fact that if people see a physician administer pain medication occasion they will respond better to that medication will work whereas if you just load the medication into the IV and they don't see it administered it it may not work at all yet. That's an touches on something that actually is a new field of study for Placebo which is the social component placebo and this story telling also because that pats also about the complexity of what it is to be human this is about biology Elgin's about chemistry and is about storytelling well I mean think about going into a doctor's office in some old warehouse and he's wearing cutoff jeans and an undershirt and he's got any like comes in and he's like smoking a cigarette and you toss some pills like how are they gonNa work on you. You know the we need to have the the theater around medicine the white lab coat for example. Why why do you need that? I mean people aren't splattering blood in them and then sells anymore. They need to see certainly hope not but we that's why we have it and that's something that we identify with getting better and all the placebo scientists I work with. They always stressed the importance of the lab coat and all that theater is really important. That's a huge part. It's the stories we tell ourselves about. S It's about US yeah I'm Krista Tippett and this is on being today with science writer and reporter Eric Vance the scope I mean the magnitude uh of of how it can work is also very still very mysterious right. I mean there's I mean you said no one. Can You can't cure cancer but certainly there are stories of right. There's there are people walking around who had cancer and then didn't and and then there's this guy who feels like he's this iconic figure in the sealed field Mike Politics who had Parkinson's I mean this is a fascinating story. They were doing a study of drug to work on Parkinson's and and it failed miserably basically the results didn't look like the drug work but there was this one guy so mike this is called Neurontin and it was actually the second trial they were doing in the in the first trial had failed and the the second trial basically they're drilling into your skull and they're going to be injecting this chemical endear substantial which is where you generate dopamine and Parkinson's disease is a chronic deficiency in dopamine and so they're trying to jump start your dopamine processes processes and it's a perfect placebo chemical because it's rewards and so it's the placebo effects are all over the place. It's very very hard to do Parkinson's research because the placebo rates so they always do a sham surgery around it was astonishing John. Actually this isn't just about giving pills. It's about people think they've been operated on yeah so this is basically you go in. The doctor doesn't know what he's giving. You like. No one knows you go in the doctor. Doctor Gets Card and it says okay we're doing real surgery. The surgery which is two holes drilled in your skull and the other one is okay. We're not doing it and then they basically just due to divots so it feels like you had a surgery in your skull but she didn't and this guy went in and he basically this changed his life he went from having having trouble walking and talking to a kid you not he was held skiing. he did a half marathon. He climbed the back half dome like he just chain years years later. He was two years later they've finally announce and his doctorate Kathleen was like we've cured Parkinson's like this is it this is amazing easing and two years later they unlined the the trial and the trial failed basically that that that that chemicals not really been using more that company went out of business and she was absolutely absolutely you know flabbergasted and then she went through and looked at the on blinding and he had gotten the placebo he'd gotten the sham surgery and I mean my question for you guys and everyone is would you have told him required by law to tell yeah but it's these are when you have a process that that is susceptible acceptable placebo. It's shocking. It's shocking what it does because when your brain has access to pain and a lot of the conditions anxiety depression Russian it can be stunning and this is why you don't see very many Parkinson's drugs is why it's so hard to get pain drugs on the market this is this is not a a problem that is new to pharmaceutical companies. They know about this. This is a huge issue with big Pharma Yeah so I said one thing he says is it. You know bottom line. This is about the power of belief in our brains in our bodies it is I I. It's interesting because it's not unlimited. I think Elliott chrome one of the researchers said it best when she said the placebo effect is not unlimited. We just don't know where the limits it's our yet like. We haven't figured out where it's appropriate where it's not appropriate you know and I think that's there's some real lessons there because there are people people who are trying to sell placebo cures to cancer patients and those I tell you right now. Those people are they're dying. I mean I've I've gone done the reporting and it's criminal so you so there are times when it's appropriate and there's times when there's not I mean if you have lower back pain. Placebos are really interesting area to think think about into work and the work in and I talked a lot of pain doctors who frankly are desperate again. I feel the languages so off because we really it's not that we want doctors to be using placebo. It's that we want doctors to get sophisticated about unlocking the power of our brains doctors complain a lot about the alternative medicine and homeopathy things like that and it's like you shouldn't be complaining about it. You should be learning from it because these people are Dr Healing with nothing. You know let's be real. Homeopathy is not nothing external right healing with something internal if you ever sit down with a homeopath like they spent so much time with you and and the hype the effort and the and the theater that they put in is really effective and it's very powerful powerful I mean I feel like you also were describing that in a way in Christian science where you said there is a lot of healing going on all the time. I'm and there's this place where you you said you know. The Christian Science Practitioners were always available on the other end of the phone and this is some lines from your book I and I can still hear her perfectly gravelled Alto on the other end of the phone maternal weathered and as tough as nails right doctor. Are you trust telling me that everything was going to be okay. I met God loved me to this day. It's the most comforting voice I can imagine I mean that's also tapping into that the power there's some they're sophisticated intelligence there yeah that was my the my practitioner the Metro Childhood Practitioner let me share halts she's since passed but she was this amazing amazing woman who just she just could heal you with her voice and that is not something to shirk off. You know I mean it's something to be studied no question but it's also something to be respected and I think she I don't know if she worked on and she practiced because it was just such a powerful the thing and a good doctor can be like that but I don't think it's part of their training. You're lucky if you get one but it's not it's not necessarily encouraged. Yeah I really I really love this. this know like invoking the theater was actually I just didn't interview this week with Esther a parole and she also talks about the theater of romance and relationship and the erotic and how that actually is so much more important than technique sneak or performance and this is another realm of technique art thing on talked about in the book No it really is. He's not kidding yeah. No I think we are storyteller. I mean this is uh-huh and of course we I say this because I'm a storyteller so I'm a little biased but you know your brain is trying to make sense of the world that is fundamentally. What is doing is trying to make sense of the world so it doesn't get eaten by a lion you know and part of that of these stories that and pharmaceutical companies do the same thing like the placebo effect is the worst enemy the pharmaceutical company right up until the point when it gets? FDA approval then it becomes as their best friend and you see these like these advertisers on television wonderful here for your life will be pill or like they're like the cartoon where you're all read down here and you take his pill and it turns blue and it's like oh the magical soothing blue pellets that like somehow released at least by the blue soothing so you know what I thought of though how does that work I mean there's there's so much going on here. That's that has so much resonance and relevance for other areas of our life together. what you said a minute ago about there. Is this the idea that we are already healed but we have to live into that we have to believe in it and and make it more true and I was actually thinking of social change makers. How about John Lewis talking about okay here? We Go about avowed vow during the civil rights movement that what they had to do mentally was to live as if right that the a beloved community was there it was the true reality and the true onus and you had to act accordingly even if what was in front of you it didn't correspond to that reality I mean right. That's fun dynamic in human society. That's fundamentally when I was raised with which is cool to talk about when you're in your twenties but try explain that your classroom like when you're in the second grade show and tell like Oh yeah. None of this is real us but we assume it's real but yeah no no. You're absolutely right now. That's exactly the way to pack the brain. I mean I see this a lot. In fact I talked to one pain doctor the place to really understand this. I think the best is with chronic pain which is a huge problem in our country by itself but it also is the foundation of the OPIOID crisis understanding most of these opioid addiction a lot of it comes from prescription drugs related to chronic pain and pain in doctors are really struggling with how to how to treat pain that doesn't involve you know filling up with opioids and and one one of the doctors you know the road renowned researcher who is I think established enough in his position to be honest with me said look I'm. I'm lucky if I can help forty percent of my my patients. If I'm a baseball player I'd be making millions but as a doctor at that's not a great number and he's actually says he recommends the patients like if you're a lapsed APPS Catholic go back to church. Try It because first of all you know he he's looking for anything first of all he wants to create a sense even if they're continuing treatment treatment with him that good things are coming that you know that there is an order. There's a prediction expectation again and just you know just going back to church church and feeling like they're getting some sort of sense that this will go way that good things are coming is the first step for him and he's you know he's willing to try anything because it's very very tough and there's a whole theory around around pain that says that chronic pain isn't really something wrong with you. It's just the chemicals in your brain. I haven't been set to the right levels and then it's a matter of so we're all in pain right now. From whatever injuries we've ever had. It's just that your brain has set the levels of its own endogenous opioids voice to to a point where you don't feel it anymore. which is will mess with your head? I promise you if you think about long enough that will mess with your head but it is sort of the sense of like look you know you're not trying to get rid of something you just trying to reset the levels and and that's within us all and so trying to fix the knee or do something inject Jack something that will that will make the pain go away. We have it in US in theory to be free of it right away just to figure out how to convince your brain to do it after a short break more with Eric Fans and you can find this show again in three of the libraries carries it on being dot org body healing and trauma brain and neuroscience and science and being we created libraries for fifteen year archive for browsing or deep diving by theme for teaching and reflection conversation find this and an abundance of more at on being dot org on being brought to you by the John Templeton Foundation harnessing the power of the sciences to explore the deepest and most perplexing flexing questions facing humankind to learn more subscribe to their newsletter possibilities and discover the Work Templeton supports on topics from curiosity and kindness to evolution black holes and the origins of life sign up at Templeton Dot Org forward slash possibilities. I'm Krista Tibetan a bit and this is on being today. We're exploring the brains theater of healing also known as the placebo effect with science writer and reporter Eric Eric Vance so he I noticed because I was I was reading articles that have been written about your work and interviews. You've given an I noticed that that there was still this kind of dismissive nece and defensiveness in the science journals right what they picked up on was and we haven't talked about this when we push the the no CBO which which is actually the same. It's that same power of believe it's the it's the dark side of that which is power fear and that I mean that also talk about something that has relevance and all kinds of things about our life together these days and in the world so they picked up on that mass hysteria caused by our brains and the scientific American podcast interview do and the title was your brain is so easily fooled and national geographic. Here's what placebos can heal and what they can't yeah. He was very hung up on that 'cause it's you know Y- ah there's this desire to sort of like put limits on it and I think it's important to put limits on it but yeah it's worth mentioning in the CBO's are actually probably more powerful than placebo servants we have is that is that they they're easier to create and they last longer. We'll see a little bit about so no CBO's is a it's a think of it as you know if a placebo is this will make your pain go away thinking no CBO is this is really going to hurt. You know him do this thing. It's really GONNA be ready. It's really really GonNa hurt hurt like that. I mean you can feel my saying that like there's this it will hurt. It will hurt really hurt these studies they do basically a lot of them are give someone pain and then depending on the story. You tell them rates that pain is higher or lower than what someone have. They didn't have any story. That's a lot of the placebo research the way it goes does and that higher pain is the no CBO and that applies to a lot of other different things in the world now they're hard to study because you can't you you can't go to a Parkinson's patient and give them a pill and say this is going to make your Parkinson's worse does that no one should ever do that. So this is where you take that you take that that desire our brains have to be predicting and preparing and you turn it in you you channel and into fear and there's any say there is nothing more powerful than happens in our brains and bodies and fear utilise interesting story about how you ran against this in yourself when you had to vaccinate axon eight your data yeah Yeah I you know I'm a I'm a science writer written. I've seen the data written about Autism mm-hmm and written about vaccinations. There is no connection I I've seen it but when you when that guy pulls out that big old needle and comes out to your kid you don't rationale rational thought is not what's happening like in I was worried about you know autism with my kid and th the the the science writer part of my brain was so embarrassed about the only guy where this guy came from and so rather than not say to write a story for NPR about it which may or may not idea but but the point is not you autism thing like the point is like the power of fear and that's you know and and that's for a science writer you know like it. I understand fully why the anything with with your kids is you know why there's so much fear around you know not just vaccinations but a lot of things with your his because it's powerful it's powerful and and if you think about it from an evolutionary perspective it makes sense like you know which is more important. you know feeling to have have as surviving in the in the forest like fear or hope and fear because that'll keep you from again eaten by the lion so it's it's it is it makes sense why it's more powerful but it's definitely and the acknowledging the thing acknowledging this the the is is the most important thing understanding that these these things exist and that none of us are immune to them. I can't damage people say oh look. I'm not a sucker but ECHINACEA really works. It's like well you know you are sucker but so am I were all suckers. Every one of us and you know ECHINACEA if it works. I'm not gonNA say anything and I also think uh-huh taking seriously the power fear is really important. I was at Stanford earlier this year and had had a conversation with some physicians in the medical school and they're working with young residents who sometimes end up counseling of parents who don't want to vaccinate their child right and the conversation we were having was about was very very pragmatic. It was it was about how can that be a fruitful productive conversation and the fact is that that the young residents it ends as I was hearing often went into that really dismissive of the fear annoyed with it kind of like you were annoyed and embarrassed by it annoy like you were in when you were there in the doctor's office these warring parts of your brain we're having tonight and yet we would be applying our more complex intelligence from what we're learning through science about ourselves and our fellow humans to not honored the ear rationality but to honor the fear because the right the only way because actually what happened. was that true that the doctor. I'm remembering it now did he. He said at some point I think it's done. Maybe you need a lollipop. The doctor could so upset so you yeah I just honestly that was quite right. That's actually what's needed when we're dealing with something that is about humanity like it or not attractive never not that we deal at a human level with each other I think in all of this what is needed empathy we can all start at least coming coming. You know these findings some bridges to bridge the gap but if you guys haven't been on twitter and seeing the wars between sort of rationalists and people who are alternative medicine people like they're they're not nice and and if we can use the same language understand that the people's experiences they are real and there were having the experiences and frankly if you can rub crystal on your on your arm and have Pingo way you are the lucky one like your rational friend who doesn't have any of these ear or unlucky your brains pharmacy and you have a tool that they don't like it. Yeah you had that capability to unlock the drugs that are already in your brain and and you can something people can't like that. Is You give me the choice I would much rather be that person and then just stay in pain yeah then just painted okay to be Andy Right that doesn't help I'm Krista Tippett and this is on feeing today with science writer and reporter Eric Vance. We're at the Pulitzer Center in Washington. DC So Liliana Maria perceives the executive producer of on being is going to facilitate the yes read some from all of you. The first question is for Eric. Can you talk a little bit about why the placebo effect wears off. What's actually actually happening in the brain? This person says that they once had acupuncture for pain with amazing results but the effects wore off after a few weeks and subsequent acupuncture treatments has zero effect on the pain pain yeah that is a great question so puncture soon as pain again the thing is most often unstudied is pain. you have to reset the way the brain actually perceives pain and simply sort of having a placebo placebo rush of endorphins which what we're talking about the dodgers opioids but other word from this endorphins is not resetting the brain. It's getting Russia endorphins and so oh resetting the brain is not easy. That's what we're talking about. If it's chronic pain let's say stomach pain and there's something going on in your stomach like that will surfer's out again mechanism will come out again and even if it's just a mental pain like fibromyalgia or something like that that will reassert itself and to actually reset and make that pain away. It seems to be a much longer process and we don't understand that we also understand different people how they respond to that. This question is tied to that a little bit which is do you have a a hack or an easy way for people to teach themselves tap into their brain gets to talk about hypnosis. This is amazing. This is the those fascinating thing that you are so that hypnosis to you is a way to channel this stuff. Well what's interesting hypnosis. It's actually not placebo because you can give people. There's this drug that makes placebo effects. Go Away and hypnosis still works so it's definitely other mechanisms that are involved and why it hasn't been studied more like we've even you know doctors have been doing it since the mid eighteen hundreds and it got a bad rap for a bunch of differentiating reasons read about but like I always always pointed to Bram stroker's Dracula if you look at the difference between when the book was written and when the first movie came out with a book written the good guys did hypnosis and that's how they found Dracula Dracula by then the movie came out it was a bad guy who was doing it noses so it got a bad rap but it is like the problem is is it doesn't work on everyone and maybe you had to be hypnotized and certain people who are not very nicely said it's a talent to be. I don't have it and like as I tried to get hypnotized a few times. I am hypnotized. I think we yeah now. AETNA doesn't work so I'm low on the scale so I don't really have that the tool available to me but that's that's a great how to hack all the hacks that you are very from one person to the next and I I always say throw yourself all the way like alternative medicine through yourself all the way but leave like one foot out like try a bunch of different because because the storytelling is important so maybe homeopathy story doesn't resonate like acupuncture story but don't let someone tell you you know not to go to a doctor especially if it's a serious disease because there are people who what you mean by keep one foot in one foot out and you know and don't don't put your life in jeopardy but yeah the attack would be look for stories that resonate for you and if you kind of think might be a placebo that doesn't mean it won't work you can give people placebo pills and say these are placebo pills pills and they will still work as a lot of this is unconscious and you can't help it. I will say to reading my book also will not hurt you from getting a placebo effect by my book that writing my book might might but the hypnosis no. It's not a placebo. It's just we just don't know what it is and that's like seven tried that find out if you're hypnotized if you are you got a whole bunch of tools to play with this next question came up a couple of times in in a few different ways so are there any studies comparing healing rates between religious this believers versus atheists and then a similar question around positive people versus cynical people yeah unfortunately there have been many efforts to figure out who the placebo people are and these efforts have varied from personality type two age to gender her to race to anything you can think of and they've never found a correlation that sticks they've claimed they found them and then they disappear there are no no I mean we all know people who you think would fit like someone response but when you get a bunch of people together and you do scientific work it doesn't seem to work the one the thing that seems to be the exception to that is genetics. There's a few genes that may be related to certainly with pain because again the study study and it would make sense that there are a few other conditions where the placebo rate there's there's some researchers who are trying to compile all genes related to placebos right now and at Harvard and and that would that would start to be a map of who is susceptible right well the idea would be if you put him on the other because some of them cancel each other out uh-huh. If you have one that's aiding one. That's hurting the placebo on your both of them like they would like it would depend on where they enact. One would be the surface of the receptor another one. It'd be further on the line so these things get complicated real fast but if you just look at personality doesn't work if you just look gender doesn't work so kind of to the theme of this Pulitzer Conference you know you you've ended up as you're kind of straddling at least with this work not with all your reporting but with some of your reporting putting both the field of science and religion and my observation is that you actually end your book with a little bit here a little bit sad that these two worlds that you've been that they don't engage with each other and eliminating each other and I think us beautiful language you say or that there's this feeling that you have to choose between the two which is a false choice. you say I mean I love the way you opened that up. You know as you say the human mind is an elaborate ever-changing human palace and it has all these secret passageways we have yet to comprehend and we really don't know it's not easy stuff to understand and it's not easy to FBI. Anyone in this room could possibly come up with a really good study that no one's done like it's just there's Edmund funding for it and it was hard I was hoping at the end is sort of bring sat down with Christian Science Practitioner and it was trying to bring my childhood together with through my my quote unquote rational scientific reporter life and and I I don't know that I did and I feel like there's certain things that sleeps that people aren't willing to make and but I do think that there's so much opportunity like you said in in in the brain and the mind however you want to call it is a fascinating vastly confusing place and it's so big that were scratching surface and with this particularly because placebo spent so much time in the Doghouse as being sort of you know hippy dippy thing that we're only recently starting to be able to have the tools does she look at these things. We're GONNA. We're GONNA see a whole new picture of the brain. In the next generation I mean the CBO is the natural thing right in natural healing that sounds like a methodology but just you you can always ability to heal itself rephrase. hippocrates is the hippocratic oath to basically be Let we'll see what effect happen because that was his whole thing was like look. You know it's not like take cut you into pieces or like sacrifice. You know goats to the God of war like let's to see the stakes but he didn't know placebo was but he certainly understood any Washington. He knew that you do no harm was basically lay down for a while the suit the placebo effect takes care of us do you does is the language you know in in your work. The the mind body language appears a lot and I think the mind body spirit is implied ride in there. I mean you can define spirit in so many ways. I have this theory that you know one hundred years from now people will look back and see see how we used that phrase and think it's like people talking about four humors by I mean does that. Is there a distinction for you. It's a false dichotomy. there's no mind body unless you WANNA be like mind body stomach because the stomach has many nerve endings as the brain gets your second brain so oh like let's not cut the stomach out of this stomachs also like no. It's your whole body like the body is the body you know. The mind is part of it's just you know it's just the part you really don't WanNa shut off you know as a part of your body doesn't want to get hurt but like other than that. It's just you know separating the mind and the body is really pointless. The whole thing I mean you look at Dopamine Right which affects Parkinson's it affects reward it also affects digestion and movement like a lot of your brain's functions doing double duty these things. Are you know this is not like Oh. We're in brain town. Oh now right this. Is your whole body working together and so trying to break it apart. It's just it's just something we've constructed yeah so so just to illustrate that one of the ways you described helplessly what happens which I completely I had trouble visualizing it but that it goes backwards. Oh yeah right because because this this illustrates this that yes so so if you can imagine burning your hand on a stove and then you put your hand in like ice cold water that that sensation would go up your arm up to the back the back your brain go through through the I hate to use the Lizard Party of rain up the into the hippocampus the Anthony Piglets cortex gives me into the the front part of your brain the prefrontal Cortex and you'd say God I feel so good I'm near Awhile a placebo effect does a lot of the same things but it starts in the prefrontal cortex and goes backwards and it works its way backwards to those other parts parts to getting to the fear parts and everything later releasing chemicals as it goes where you have a belief right next Artesian and then you're in your hand gets Peta right right right and they've also sort of teased apart. The unconscious versus the conscious which aren't exactly the same pathways are different pathways so we're learning a lot of cool stuff yeah. How do you think you walk through your days differently or parent differently? Because of these things you know I have a whole different perspective I have little three year old and when he falls down and goes boom and I kiss it and make a better like that's a whole different thing now think I'm releasing some serious chemicals La more comfortable lying into my child. I mean I try to lie to myself as much as healthy you know I know that the fizzy drink that makes my coal go away doesn't really work but if it's fizzy one hundred percent I'll I'll buy it like anything being busy. I you tell me this. Is You know it'll turn your hair green like I'll believe fizzy drinks or magic I will say one hundred for my own hacks and try to figure out how this works. I also so you know I so this is giving me a lot more empathy for people who would otherwise like Oh. You're such a fool. Whatever your thought is that I don't agree with makes you? Oh you know worthless like that that idea at least you know it always comes back up because I'm human but that this helps you get past that understand. The People's reality is is really their reality is not this is not their machination. this was happening so this is a huge question and you don't have to answer it but I just wanted to start thinking through in front of all of us the question of of what it means to be human and you know how you might start to answer that differently after all this research you've done in this this place you've gone in your mind in your experience while you're asking asking me I feel like I'm mass Leeann equipped to SL question but I do think that there is this unifying thing about belief relief and belief affecting your body that is universal and it really is who we are and there is no getting away from it like this idea that somehow you're too clever for belief to completely change your reality. You know as soon as you think that you're you're setting yourself up for problems. If you think you're above this somehow I'm Howard. Rationality has gotten you're someplace other. People aren't this is something we all do and and we all look for patterns we look for things that make sense and and when we find those things we are susceptible to to changes in our certainly in our body and also reality it gets back to that idea about the you know making predictions I spent our brain does and those predictions they create this tapestry of of reality and expectation the way we see everything fitting together that that is just as flawed and amazing as the person next to you and so I think that's what we're talking about. As tapestry of the map that we've created about the the world that is not accurate but it's kind of awesome and we all have one and that's being human like this is who we are. Thank you Eric Vance and Pulitzer Center and thanks all of you for coming Doc Eric Fans is a Pulitzer Center grantee in the author author of suggested you the curious science of your brain's ability to deceive transform and heal his work has appeared in several publications nations including The New York Times Harper's magazine Scientific American and National Geographic Sir on being project is procedural Willie Percy Maya Tarot Marie sallet Aaron Farrell Laurindo Tonio Aaron Taco Kristen Lynn Profited del Eddie Gonzales lose Kellyanne Roe Lucas Johnson Damon Leigh Suzanne Burly Katie Gordon Zack Rose Siri Grassley the call Finn and calling Chuck Special Special. Thanks this week to Natalie applewhite Peterson Gym one gay Ed Elgin for its and the rest of the Pulitzer Center team beyond being project is located on Dakota land are lovely theme music is provided and composed by Zoe Keating and the last voice that you hear singing at the end of our show is Cameron Kinghorn on being an independent production of the on being project. It's distributed to public radio stations by PR X. created created the show at American public media a funding partners include the John Templeton Foundation harnessing the power of the sciences to explore the deepest endless endless perplexing questions facing humankind learn about cutting edge research on the science of generosity gratitude and purpose at templeton dot org slash Russian discoveries the Fetzer Institute helping to build the spiritual foundation for a loving world find them at Fetzer Dot Org Calia Paige Foundation Foundation working to create a future where universal spiritual values form the foundation of how we care for our common home humanity united advancing human dignity at home and around the world find out more at humanity united dot org part of the video group the Osprey Foundation a catalyst list for empowered healthy and fulfilled lives and the Lilly endowment an Indianapolis based Private Family Foundation dedicated to its founders interest in religion community development and education on being is produced by ON STUDIOS IN MINNEAPOLIS

Coming up next