Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genes Determine Whether Sugar Pills Work

Date:
December 4, 2008
Source:
Uppsala University
Summary:
It is a well-known fact in drug trials that individuals can respond just as well to placebos, sugar pills, as to the active drug. On the other hand, it is difficult to explain why only certain people get better from placebos. Researchers have now found gene variants that can impact the placebo effect and a mechanism in the brain that characterizes those who respond to placebos.

It is a well-known fact in drug trials that individuals can respond just as well to placebos, sugar pills, as to the active drug. On the other hand, it is difficult to explain why only certain people get better from placebos. A team of researchers from Uppsala University and Gothenburg University have now found gene variants that can impact the placebo effect and a mechanism in the brain that characterizes those who respond to placebos.

The study, published in Journal of Neuroscience, examined 108 individuals suffering from social phobia using a brain camera (PET, positron emission tomography). The individuals were participating in a treatment study looking into how anxiety-moderating drugs affect brain activity. Just under one fourth of the subjects were given a placebo instead of a drug. This was a double-blind study, meaning that neither the subjects nor the research team know who was taking the drug or the sugar pill.

Before and after an eight-week period of treatment, the participants were asked to give a stressful oral presentation while their brain activity was monitored. When all the metering was finished and the study was decoded, it turned out that 40 percent of the placebo group had received the same degree of anxiety relief from the sugar pill as other groups got from a drug.

Those who responded well to the placebo had a significant reduction in activity in the amygdala in the temporal lobe, while this reduction was not found in the others. In previous research the amygdala has stood out as a key structure for emotional reactions. Both serotonin-active drugs (SSRI preparations) and cognitive behavioral therapy moderate activity in this area.

"Thus, successful placebo treatment works through the same mechanism in the brain," says Tomas Furmark at the Uppsala University Department of Psychology, who directed the study.

The study also analyzed two genes that influence the reabsorption and synthesis of serotonin in the brain (the serotonin transporter gene and the tryptophan hydroxylase-2 gene). The findings showed that only individuals who had certain variants, alleles, of these genes had a moderation of activity in the amygdala. Above all, the tryptophan hydroxylase-2 genes variants could predict the degree of relief from anxiety achieved by the placebo pill as well as the moderation of the amygdala.

Statistical analyses showed that it is a genetic effect on the activity in the amygdala that influences the propensity to respond to a placebo, that is, a path from the gene, via the brain, to behavior.

The study shows for the first time that genes influence the placebo effect by regulating the propensity to react in an area of the brain that is important for our feelings.

This could have significant consequences for all drug testing and other treatment studies that use a placebo.

"The findings show that the possibilities of demonstrating that an active treatment functions better than a placebo can be affected by the gene variants in the trial subjects. It is also possible that genes can explain why certain people respond well or poorly to anxiety-moderating drugs and psychotherapy respectively," says Tomas Furmark.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Uppsala University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Uppsala University. "Genes Determine Whether Sugar Pills Work." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081203184653.htm>.
Uppsala University. (2008, December 4). Genes Determine Whether Sugar Pills Work. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081203184653.htm
Uppsala University. "Genes Determine Whether Sugar Pills Work." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081203184653.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Reuters - US Online Video (July 28, 2014) Two American aid workers in Liberia test positive for Ebola while working to combat the deadliest outbreak of the virus ever. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins