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"eric vance vance" Discussed on On Being with Krista Tippett

On Being with Krista Tippett

14:10 min | 11 months ago

"eric vance vance" Discussed on On Being with Krista Tippett

"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..

pain Eric Vance Krista Tippett Eric Vance Vance US cancer writer Chris Science reporter Fetzer Dot Org Alzheimer Pulitzer Center Washington Christian Science Society Raines CBO Bendix opium Mexico OCD